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PIA suspends flight to and from Saudi Arabia amid new coronavirus strain fears

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KARACHI:  Pakistan International Airline on Monday suspended all flight operations to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia until further notice. 

The development comes as the Saudi government temporarily closed its borders after a new strain of coronavirus was identified in the United Kingdom. 

The national carrier suspended 18 flights to and from the Kingdom today on directives issued by the Saudi aviation authority, said a PIA spokesperson.  “These flights include  PK-9739 and PK-9760.

The flight suspension will remain in effect until the Kingdom opens borders again, following which the passengers will be accommodated.

The PIA spokesperson has asked effected passengers to register through the airline’s UAN 11-786-786 with their working phone numbers to receive timely updates.

KSA suspends closes border

The Kingdom has temporarily suspended all international commercial flights for a week except for the foreign flights already in the Kingdom which will be allowed to leave, the state news agency reported on Monday.

Quoting an interior ministry source, the Saudi Press Agency said entry into the Kingdom through land and sea ports was also temporarily suspended for one week, adding that the suspension could be extended for another week.

The move comes after a new strain of COVID-19 was identified in the United Kingdom. England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said on Saturday that the mutation can spread more quickly and urgent work is under way to confirm that it does not cause a higher mortality rate.

SPA said those returning to the Kingdom from one of the European countries or any country where the new strain has appeared after December 8 have been directed to isolate at home for two weeks, and take a coronavirus test during the isolation period and again every five days.

“Anyone who has returned from or passed through a European country, or any country where the new strain has appeared, during the past three months, must take a COVID-19 test.”

“The movement of goods, commodities and supply chains from countries where the new strain of COVID-19 has not appeared are excluded from the above-mentioned measures, as determined by the Ministry of Health in coordination with the Ministry of Transport,” it added.

“These procedures will be reviewed in light of the developments related to the pandemic, and the reports received from the Ministry of Health.”

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