May 16, 2020 / 4:10 PM / 14 days ago

Pakistan resumes domestic flights, insists on masks and empty seats

Fishermen are silhouetted as they clean fishing nets along the deserted Clifton beach, as public places remain closed, after Sindh provincial government imposed complete lockdown for three days and ordered people to stay home, despite Pakistan started to ease the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, Karachi, Pakistan May 16, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan resumed domestic flights between major cities for the first time in nearly two months on Saturday with the requirement that face masks be worn and vacant seats left between passengers, officials said.

International flights will remain suspended till May 31.

The first Pakistan International Airline (PIA) flight carrying 84 passengers departed from Karachi for Lahore at 1300 local time (0800 GMT), along with flights for Lahore and Islamabad operated by a private airline, local media reported.

“In view of the difficulties faced by passengers in traveling between major cities, the Federal Government has allowed limited domestic flight operations from five major airports, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta with effect from May 16,” said a statement issued by the Aviation Division.

Domestic and chartered flight operations will require disinfection of the aircraft prior to boarding, at least one vacant seat between the passengers and compulsory wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizers. No food and beverages will be allowed during domestic flights, the statement added.

On Saturday, the Aviation ministry released pictures of passengers seated with a gap of a seat in the flights.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the country could not afford an indefinite lockdown and the nation would have to learn to live with the pandemic.

At a press briefing along with some cabinet members, Khan said he wanted to tell the country’s medical community that lifting the lockdown was imperative to provide jobs to 25 million informal laborers and workers.

Pakistan has reported over 38,000 cases of infection from the new coronavirus, and 834 deaths.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Christina Fincher

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