LAHORE: Two pilots of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) that recently flew back from Canada have been confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus and shifted to a private in Lahore for treatment, according to Punjab Minister for Health Yasmin Rashid.
“The coronavirus tests of two PIA pilots and three other members of the crew on a flight that recently flew back from Canada were carried out and the two pilots have tested positive for the virus,” Rashid told the media on Monday morning.
“The two pilots have been shifted to a private hospital in Lahore for treatment where their condition is getting better. The other three crew members have been told to self-isolate themselves in line with international protocols on the virus,” Rashid added.
PIA suspends flight operations from Karachi
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had on Sunday suspended its operations from Karachi, rejecting reports that its pilots from a flight from Britain had contracted the coronavirus.
In a statement issued Sunday, the national carrier clarified its views on quarantining its aviation staff in Karachi. “The PIA is strictly abiding by the instructions issued by the Government of Pakistan,” its spokesperson Abdullah Khan said.
“The instructions include measures related to disinfecting the airplane as well as the crew’s health and safety,” Khan added, noting that the federal government’s instructions were being followed at all airports in the country.
The incident that took place at Karachi airport was “against the instructions issued by the Government of Pakistan on aviation staff”, he said, adding that three hours prior to the plane with no passengers was scheduled to arrive from London, all officials had been informed.
However, the spokesperson stressed that despite instructions, the Sindh health department’s officials insisted on forcefully quarantining the pilots.
PIA CEO Malik says ensured safety for staff
PIA Chief Executive Air Marshal Arshad Malik has expressed serious concerns over the actions contrary to the federal government’s instructions, he added.
The PIA’s airplane crew is bringing back Pakistanis who have been stranded abroad, CEO Malik said, according to Khan. “We have ensured all possible safety measures for the aviation staff,” he added.
The spokesperson mentioned that the national carrier was constantly in contact with top officials and that reports about its airplane crew contracting coronavirus were misleading.
The airline’s operations from Karachi were to remain suspended until there was a consensus on the government-issued directives, he said.
PALPA tells pilots not to fly planes
The Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association (PALPA), an organisation to protect the rights of the national carrier’s pilots, has told pilots not to fly planes, putting ongoing flight operations at risk of suspension.
The PALPA stressed that the lives of pilots and aircrew were at risk if they flew to countries hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The move has put flights for Pakistanis stranded abroad in danger.