With thousands of expatriate Pakistanis unable to fly to the UAE due to the non-availability of Rapid Test facilities at airports, a Pakistan airline said it will set up mobile testing facilities at airports soon.

Shahid Mughal, regional manager for the UAE at Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), said the national carrier will set up mobile labs at the airports so that the UAE-bound passengers can take rapid tests before boarding flights .

PIA currently operates international flights to UAE from Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Multan and Karachi.

Earlier, stranded Pakistanis looking to fly to the UAE were turned away from airports due to the non-availability of rapid tests at airports. “There is no Rapid Antigen Test facility at the Pakistani airports. Therefore, passengers are not able to board the flights. The UAE has emphasised to strictly follow SOPs (standard operating procedures), and bring passengers that meet all the guidelines and conditions,” said Sohail Nazar, UAE country manager at Airblue.

The UAE has allowed fully-vaccinated residents from Pakistan and other restricted countries to return from Thursday. However, a Rapid Antigen Test facility within the premises of the airport of the departing country is mandatory.

Nazar said: “All the airlines are facing this challenge because none of the airports in Pakistan have this facility. Importantly, the condition is that this Rapid Antigen Test has to be conducted within the premises of the airport and not outside. This means the rapid test has to be done four hours before departure of the flight,” said the country manager of Airblue, Pakistan’s largest private carrier which operates flights from Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Multan to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Some laboratories in Pakistan are offering rapid test facility, but it is useless as the test is not conducted within the airports.

“We had a meeting with the officials here in the UAE and they’re very clear about it. Local authorities need to set up a Rapid Antigen Test facility at Pakistani airports. Hopefully, this issue will be settled soon,” he added.

Malik Tauqeer, a passenger left high and dry at Lahore International Airport, said passengers on UAE-bound flights were not allowed to board due to non-availability of rapid test at the airport. “Please don’t book your flights and spend money on PCR or any other tests unless it is clear that they have (rapid test) facilities at the airport. People who are standing outside right now have come from distant areas and now they can’t fly to UAE,” said Tauqeer.


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