ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended its flight operations from Karachi after the Sindh provincial government forcibly quarantined its pilots over fears they might be infected with the coronavirus on their return from the UK, according to a media report.
The national carrier on Saturday operated two special flights carrying nearly 600 British passengers to Manchester and London.
The British nationals were stuck in Pakistan after the government banned international commercial flights from March 21 to April 4 to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
However, reacting to the quarantining of its pilots, a PIA spokesperson said that the move was "contrary to the directives issued by the Government of Pakistan for aviation staff" and all the officials concerned were informed three hours prior the plane returned from London.
"However, despite instructions, the Sindh health department's officials insisted on forcefully quarantining the pilots," the spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune on Sunday.
The aviation operations from Karachi would remain suspended until there was a consensus on the directives of the federal and provincial governments, the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, PIA Chief Executive Officer Air Marshal Arshad Malik said the PIA crew was unfairly treated in Karachi and the reports of the presence of coronavirus in them were misleading, according to the report.
"The PIA aviation personnel are our national heroes who serve to repatriate trapped Pakistanis despite threats," he said.
"We have ensured all possible safety measures for the aviation staff," he added.
The PIA spokesperson said that the crew is in isolation at a hotel and is awaiting test results.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots' Association has also restrained its pilots from flying, citing inadequate security arrangements for the staff in the wake of coronavirus pandemic and quarantining of the crew.