20,000 Pakistanis in UAE stranded by coronavirus lockdown

Travel restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus have left thousands of Pakistanis stranded in the United Arab Emirates.

al-monitor The Pakistani Consulate in Dubai distributes food to Pakistani citizens in need during the coronavirus outbreak, Dubai, UAE, seen in a picture uploaded March 26, 2020.  Photo by Twitter/@ParepDubai.

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lockdown, quarantine, travel ban, repatriation, pandemic, covid-19, coronavirus, pakistan

Apr 6, 2020

More than 20,000 Pakistanis are stranded in the United Arab Emirates as the Gulf country ratchets up travel restrictions in an attempt to reel in its COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the UAE imposed a two-week round-the-clock lockdown in Dubai and has suspended most passenger flights. Residents can only leave their homes with a special permit and only one member of the household is allowed to leave at one time. 

In what marked its biggest single-day jump in cases, the UAE announced Monday that 277 more people were confirmed to be infected with virus, bringing the total to 2,076 with 11 deaths. 

Citing a consulate spokesperson, Reuters reported that authorities from Pakistan and the UAE were in talks to arrange special flights for stranded citizens.

According to the Dubai-based newspaper the Khaleej Times, nearly 20,000 Pakistanis have applied with the Pakistani consulate for a seat on the upcoming repatriation flights. Meanwhile, the consulate in Dubai is reportedly distributing food to citizens who are unemployed due to the outbreak or stuck waiting for flights to resume. 

There are roughly 1.6 million Pakistanis living and working in the UAE. Those with expired residencies were given a three-month extension and visa overstay fines for visitors have been waived. 

The UAE’s ambassador to Pakistan announced on Twitter Sunday that the emirate had sent its second shipment of medical supplies to Pakistan, which is struggling to cope with more than 2,600 confirmed cases and 40 deaths from the virus.

The South Asian country has quarantined some 20,000 worshippers and is searching for thousands more who attended an Islamic gathering in the city of Lahore last month. 

This story contains reporting from Agence France-Presse. 

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