US bans Pakistan’s PIA over pilot license scandal

So far 17 pilots have been fired in the first phase of Pakistan International Airlines’ investigation. (AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2020

US bans Pakistan’s PIA over pilot license scandal

  • Follows a similar move by European Union aviation regulators to bar the state-run carrier for six months

KARACHI: The United States has banned Pakistan International Airlines from operating chartered flights to the country, the airline said, after it announced nearly 150 pilots would be grounded over fake or dubious licenses.
It follows a similar move by European Union aviation regulators to bar the state-run carrier for six months.
PIA said in a statement that the Federal Aviation Authority in the US had revoked approval for the airline due to “recent events identified by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority that are of serious concern to aviation safety.”
Pakistan’s aviation minister revealed in June that a government review had found around 260 of the country’s 860 active pilots hold fake licenses or cheated on exams.
PIA at the time said it would immediately ground about a third of its 434 pilots, just weeks after one of its planes crashed in Karachi killing 98 people — an accident blamed on pilot error.
So far 17 pilots have been fired in the first phase of its investigation, a PIA spokesman said.
The airline had suspended its commercial operations to the US in 2017 after booking financial losses on the route.
But in April the US Department of Transport granted it special permission to operate chartered flights for one year, largely to bring back stranded Pakistanis during the coronavirus lockdown.
Until the 1970s, Pakistan’s largest airline was considered a top regional carrier but its reputation plummeted amid chronic mismanagement, frequent cancelations and financial struggles.


UK science advisers warn public on COVID-19 rates

Updated 29 min 29 sec ago

UK science advisers warn public on COVID-19 rates

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson huddled with ministers over the weekend to discuss how the government will respond to the recent rise in cases
  • The UK reported a seven-day average of 21 deaths a day last week

LONDON: Britain’s top medical adviser says the country has, in a “very bad sense,” turned a corner on COVID-19 infection rates, with figures suggesting there will be an exponential growth in the disease unless action is taken.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told the public on Monday that rates are going in the “wrong direction” amid expectations the government is preparing to announce new measures to control the pandemic.
“We have in a very bad sense, literally turned a corner,” after weeks of increasing infection rates.
Whitty said that if nothing is done, new infections will rise to 49,000 a day by mid-October. Hospitalizations are also doubling in seven to eight days — leading to more deaths.
There was also no indication that the virus had lessened in severity, he said. “We see no evidence that this is true.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson huddled with ministers over the weekend to discuss how the government will respond to the recent rise in cases, which has pushed infection rates to levels last seen in May. Later this week the government is expected to announce a slate of short-term restrictions that will act as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of the disease.
The government is hoping to keep that number from climbing back to the peak levels of early April, when more than 5,000 cases a day were being reported.
While death rates have remained relatively low so far, public health officials warn that deaths are likely to rise in coming weeks.
The UK reported a seven-day average of 21 deaths a day last week, compared with a peak of 942 on April 10.
The government last week imposed tighter restrictions on communities in northeastern England, where the infection rate first began to rise. Bars and restaurants in those areas must now close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and people are prohibited from socializing with individuals from other households.
The rise in infection rates comes as lawmakers across the political spectrum criticize the government’s testing program. While government ministers tout the record numbers of tests being performed, there are widespread reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles for tests and tests being voided because it is taking labs too long to process them.
An effective testing program is seen as essential to controlling the pandemic because it allows the government to track infections and inform people when they should self-isolate.