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Pakistan allows outbound international flights amid rising Covid-19 cases

Islamabad, May 29 (efe-epa).- Pakistan announced on Friday that it would resume international flight departures starting midnight while maintaining a ban on inbound flights, on a day when the country registered its biggest single-day mark in both deaths and fresh cases of Covid-19.

The country registered 57 deaths and 2,636 cases of the new coronavirus within the last 24 hours, according to data released by the health minister on Friday evening.

“As per the decision taken by the government of Pakistan, all national and foreign carriers are permitted to start (…) operations for outbound passengers,” the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

The authority reiterated that restrictions on inbound passenger operations would continue.

“Special permission is required from the government of Pakistan for flights with inbound passengers on a case by case basis,” the statement said.

The country, with a population of around 207-million, had suspended all national and international flights in March when authorities imposed lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

Domestic flights were allowed to operate at a small scale in the middle of May, ahead of the important Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Soon after, on May 20, the country witnessed one of its worst air accidents in recent years when a Pakistan International Airlines flight mainly carrying people returning home for Eid crashed in the city of Karachi, killing 97 people on board, while two survived.

The Airbus A320-214 aircraft crashed into a residential neighborhood just before trying to land at the airport for the second time, after a failed attempt. The reasons for the accident are not clear yet.

Authorities have gradually eased lockdown measures in recent weeks, opening offices and businesses, although educational institutions and restaurants have remained closed.

Amid the spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, Health Minister Zafar Mirza appealed for calm in a press conference on Friday.

“The situation is under control. About 18-20 percent of ventilators are being used currently. The situation is a bit serious at big hospitals in cities.,” Mirza said.

Overall, Pakistan had registered 1,317 deaths and nearly 64,000 positive cases of the coronavirus by Friday.

The minister said that if deaths and infections continued to rise, the government could consider imposing a fresh lockdown. EFE-EPA


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