Malik Riaz, 2 others refused to give samples for Covid-19 test: Lahore airport manager

Dawn

Real estate tycoon Malik Riaz, his wife and another member of his team allegedly refused to undergo Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for the coronavirus upon landing at Lahore airport in violation of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) instructions and SOPs, according to a senior official.

In a letter written to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) headquarters in Karachi dated May 17, 2021, Lahore airport chief operating officer and manager Akhtar Mirza said the Bahria Town CEO refused to give samples for the Covid-19 test even when a team of airport health staff went to his residence for the purpose.

According to the communiqué, seen by Dawn.com, Riaz along with four other people landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport via a chartered flight from Dubai at around 10:30pm on Sunday.

After the passengers passed through the immigration process, CAA duty staff requested them to undergo RAT, a rapid diagnostic test that directly detects the presence or absence of an antigen and gives results in five to 30 minutes. “But they did not respond and rapidly moved towards international arrivals exit gate,” Mirza stated in the letter.

He said CAA officials informed the group about government instructions regarding the Covid-19 antigen testing requirement “but in vain”. However, later two members of Riaz’s team underwent RAT and were found negative for Covid-19.

But Riaz, Bina Riaz and Shahid Mahmood Qureshi “left the airport without [the test] which is an open violation of NCOC instructions and SOPs”, the letter added.

It said the CAA management then contacted the government health team and Riaz’s personal staff officer to obtain the RAT samples from the property tycoon’s residence. A two-member team of airport health staff subsequently left for Riaz’s house shortly after midnight on Sunday “but unfortunately once again [he] flatly refused to give samples for the requisite test” and airport staff returned to the airport at 1:40am.

The letter was submitted to the airport services director at CAA Karachi headquarters for his “information and further necessary action”.

After detection of the coronavirus in some passengers arriving in Pakistan from abroad, despite them possessing negative PCR test results, the CAA last week tightened rules regarding testing.

“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,” the CAA said in a notification dated May 10.

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