Pakistan has begun to repatriate some of its UAE citizens who have threatened to review labor relations with countries that have refused to take back their nationals during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The first flight of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) with 227 “stranded passengers” from Dubai and other Emirates flew to Islamabad on Saturday evening, the Pakistani consulate general in Dubai said in a Twitter post.
It was not clear when other flights would depart. More than 40,000 Pakistanis in the Gulf Arab state have registered with the consulate to return home, two UAE newspapers reported.
The United Arab Emirates and other Gulf States have reported infections among low-income migrant workers living in crowded neighborhoods. Some have moved to house them in closed schools or special centers, and are trying to arrange flights to repatriate them.
The United Arab Emirates said last week that it would review labor relations with states that refuse to evacuate citizens, including those who have lost their jobs or been taken on vacation after the ambassadors of India and Pakistan declared their countries to be not ready yet.
PIA said on its website that due to the cessation of domestic flights and a ban in the country, it could not offer services for inbound flights outside of Islamabad International Airport.
Millions of foreign workers, many from Asia, form the backbone of the golf industry and work in sectors that have been disrupted by the corona virus outbreak.
The pandemic is also likely to disrupt the substantial transfers these workers send back to their home countries.
The total number of infections in the six Gulf States has risen steadily, exceeding 24,000 with more than 150 deaths, although measures such as the cessation of passenger flights, curfews and, in several cases, the blocking of districts with a large number of low-income expatriate workers have been curbed .
As in other countries in the world, several Gulf states have launched mobile apps to track COVID-19 cases.
India agreed to send hydroxychloroquine tablets to the UAE to treat patients with COVID-19 disease caused by the virus. The embassy in New Delhi tweeted late Saturday with an initial delivery of 5.5 million tablets.
New Delhi has partially lifted an export ban on malaria medication, which has increased worldwide sales, especially after US President Donald Trump has touted it as a potential weapon against the corona virus. Dozens of clinical trials are ongoing worldwide to test efficacy in COVID-19 patients.