Live with Corona
The domestic flights are set to resume from five major airports of the country from Saturday (today), announced the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) days after Prime Minister Imran Khan relaxed the lockdown to contain the coronavirus.
In a video statement, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said 20% of domestic flights would resume operations from Saturday (today) following a final decision taken by the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Thursday.
The five major airports include Jinnah International Airport, Allama Iqbal International Airport, Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), Quetta International Airport, and Bacha Khan International Airport.
Sarwar said social distancing would be followed based on the seats in the airplane and capacity to fill 50% of the seats would be maintained. “The passengers would be provided with the opportunity to travel safely,” he added.
The move came “in view of the difficulties being faced by passengers in travelling between major cities in Pakistan”, the PCAA said on Twitter.
The minister, it added, noted that the “Aviation Division has prepared very strict SOPs ensuring disinfection, social distancing and safety for the airline crew and passengers”.
Apart from social distancing, other measures include “disinfection of the aircraft prior to boarding, at least one vacant seat between the passengers, compulsory wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizer”. Furthermore, no food or beverages would be allowed.
Passengers would be required to fill health declaration forms before boarding the airplane and subjected to thermal scanning on entry and exit into and from a city. All luggage would be disinfected and no meet and greet would be allowed at the airport. Drivers have been advised to stay inside their respective vehicles in the parking lot.
A spokesperson for the PCAA said domestic flights would be operated by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and one private company. The national carrier’s administration said tickets sales may start as early as the evening today.
However, sources informed Geo News that certain airlines had said they were not ready to resume domestic flight operations. Earlier in the day, Pakistan extended its ban on the international flight operations until May 31. Meanwhile, the Punjab government has decided to allow the public transport to ply roads after Chief Minister Usman Buzdar gave the green light to the move despite a rise in coronavirus cases across the province.
The chief minister asked the officials to provide a plan laying out the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) after a meeting with transporters (Saturday) today. The meeting will be presided over by Law Minister Raja Basharat, and will take place around 3pm. After the session, the provincial government will apprise the Centre of the SOPs and the decision to allow the public transport to operate, said sources. The transport will be both intra-city and inter-city. A report earlier presented to the chief minister stated that due to the lockdown and curbs on public transport, the problems of the common people had intensified.
It said that due to the situation that people were forced to use private vehicles at exorbitant rates. The report recommended that the transport sector should be allowed to become operational to bring relief to the public.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government decided re-opening of shopping malls and car manufacturing units in the province with conditions of strict implementation of decided SOPs. The government has finalised the SOPs after consultation with stakeholders of the sectors concerned.
Punjab Minister for Industries and Trade, Mian Aslam Iqbal said that the shopping malls and car manufacturing units would be operational from Monday. The car manufacturing units are allowed to work seven days a week. However, the shopping malls business hours are same as the other markets, i.e. the malls are allowing business from morning till 5pm.
In a similar development, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to reopen the public transport from Monday as per the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
An official statement issued on Friday quoted Adviser to the Chief Minister on Information and Public Relations Ajmal Wazir as saying the decision was taken keeping in view the hardships faced by the public.
The adviser said the KP government took the action after a meeting of the Provincial Task Force on Covid-19 chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan. He said all the divisional commissioners would finalise the SOPs in consultation with the Regional Transport Authority, adding the procedures would be strictly enforced.
Ajmal Wazir said the public transport owners would be required to charge the fares as per the reduced rates of the petroleum products. He said the commissioner would decide the opening of the intra and inter-districts routes for the public transport.
The adviser said the fuel stations would remain open round the clock while the barber shops would be allowed to function on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays till 4 pm by following the SOPs.
Meanwhile, Sindh has refused to resume transport services as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced it is reopening all public transport from Monday, following in the Punjab’s footsteps.
Sindh refused to do so, citing the rising number of coronavirus patients in the country and a “critical situation” in the province as cases, deaths, and recoveries continued to increase simultaneously.