Emirates airlines suspended passenger flights from Pakistan on Wednesday following the discovery of travelers with COVID-19 on a flight.
An unspecified number of Emirates passengers tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Hong Kong following an Emirates flight, a spokesperson told Al-Monitor. The airline said the suspension would be temporary.
The South China Morning Post reported Monday that 26 passengers had tested preliminarily positive on a flight from Dubai to Hong Kong on Saturday and three on Sunday. The passengers were reported to have connected from Pakistan.
“We are coordinating closely with the various authorities and will review and implement any required additional measures to satisfy all parties before we resume services from Pakistan,” said the Emirates spokesperson. “The health and safety of our crew, customers and communities remains our top priority.”
Pakistanis living in the United Arab Emirates numbered more than a million before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dubai-based airline will continue repatriation services to, and cargo flights to and from Pakistan, according to the spokesperson.
The suspension follows a diplomatic spat between the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan over the novel coronavirus and flights. In May, Pakistan said its citizens returning home from the Gulf country were bringing COVID-19 with them. Prime Minister Imran Khan said as many as 50% of the returnees on repatriation flights had the virus. Emirati officials rejected the assertions, saying the passengers had been tested before they were flown home.
In Pakistan, cases have risen by around 5,000 daily for several days. The country has had 192,970 registered COVID-19 cases as of today.
The suspension is a setback for Emirates as it looks to rebuild its network. In March, it stopped passenger services in the United Arab Emirates due to the virus, as other airlines had also done. It resumed flights to several continents in May, and has added destinations since then.