PIA lines up flights to bring Pakistanis back before Saudi lockdown takes effect

By: Maqbool Ahmad      Published: 01:32 AM, 13 Mar, 2020
PIA lines up flights to bring Pakistanis back before Saudi lockdown takes effect
–File photo

As Saudi Arabia announced a lockdown in the country on Thursday as a measure to curb coronavirus outbreak, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced plans to bring Pakistani Umrah pilgrims and visitors back through special flights.

According to Abdullah Khan, spokesperson for the national flag carrier, the PIA will operate its first flight (PK 717/718) from Karachi to Madina on Saturday, second flight (PK 767/768) from Karachi to Jeddah on Saturday and the third flight (PK 763/764) from Islamabad to Jeddah on Sunday. Khan said the PIA would operate more flights to bring Pakistanis home in the wake of the Saudi announcement of a complete lockdown nationwide amid fears of coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier on Thursday, Saudi Arabia informed all airlines of the decision, under which pilgrims and those on visit visas were told to leave the country within 72 hours. Saudi Arabia has already suspended flights to and from Pakistan and several other countries.

Currently, Saudi Arabia has 45 confirmed coronavirus cases. The kingdom has also temporarily suspended flights to and from EU countries, Swiss Confederation, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Sudan. Flights to and from Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and Federal Somalia have also been suspended, according to the state news agency SPA.

Also, Saudi Arabia has given its citizens and nationals of the countries covered by the ban who have valid residency in the Kingdom, 72 hours to return to the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has also suspended passenger traffic through all land crossings with Jordan. However, commercial and cargo traffic is still allowed, and the passage of exceptional humanitarian cases. The ban excludes health workers in the kingdom from the Philippines and India.