CAA directs airlines to ensure accuracy of PCR tests

KARACHI: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) expressed “grave concern” that travellers entering the country have tested positive for the coronavirus on arrival despite negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

Effective until July 5, the inbound international passengers are required to complete a mandatory negative RT‑PCR test which has to be taken within 72 hours of the travel date. Last week, the aviation regulator also announced to conduct Rapid Antigen Testing of all passengers.

“Upon conducting an investigation into the issue, it has been found that passengers travelled to Pakistan using fake PCR negative test results and endangered not only passengers travelling with them, but also undermined the intense efforts being made at the national level to curb the spread of Covid-19,” it said in a notification issued late on Monday.

PCR tests, which are processed in a laboratory, use a molecular technique and can detect even trace amounts of virus. Faster and cheaper antigen tests, including most rapid home tests, detect proteins on the virus’s surface. They are most accurate when a lot of virus is present in the body — in other words, when the person is most contagious.

“The onus of contributing towards this national cause does not fall on the authority alone but is a responsibility that has to be shared by all concerned stakeholders including airline operators,” the CAA said.

The regulator also directed all airlines operating to and from Pakistan to ensure that all passengers travelling to the country possess test results from government-approved labs and that no test results be accepted without a valid QR code.

“Only original reports are accepted prior to checking in passengers for flights and no copies are accepted. Passengers not registered through the Pass Track App are not accepted for travel to Pakistan,” the CAA directed airlines.

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