Hundreds of Pakistani prisoners will be flown home from the UAE after being freed in a government amnesty.
Pakistan’s embassy said almost 400 inmates were given a reprieve because of the pandemic and the lead-up to Ramadan.
They were due to depart on two flydubai charter flights, to Faisalabad and Peshawar.
“In the backdrop of the prevailing situation following the outbreak of Covid-19, the UAE government today released nearly 400 Pakistani prisoners,” the embassy said.
“These prisoners were serving their term in the UAE jails for minor offences. They are being repatriated through two special flights arranged by the UAE government.
“The government of Pakistan sincerely thanks the brotherly government of the UAE for this kind gesture during the challenging times.”
On their arrival, the former inmates will be quarantined at airport facilities for at least one week.
Pakistani officials said further flights were expected to begin next week for expatriates who wish to return home.
More than 25,000 have formally requested repatriation in recent weeks. Many have lost jobs, closed businesses or taken extended leave because of the economic effect of Covid-19.
Consul general Ahmed Ali said residents would have to pay for their own tickets and that more information was expected in the coming days.
“Once passenger flights start to operate we will let you know more information,” Mr Ali said.
Last week, hundreds of people gathered outside the Pakistan embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai to register for repatriation.
Some chanted slogans against the Pakistani government, which ordered a shutdown of all flights on March 21.
Only a handful of repatriation flights have been allowed so far, mostly for those in exceptional circumstances.
Mr Ali spoke to the crowd through a megaphone to try to explain the situation.
India made the same decision to halt all aviation and close borders on March 25, and has allowed no repatriation flights.
Indian expatriates also hope to see exceptions to the decision, despite a two-week extension until May 3.
Abdur Rasheed, 30, has installed carpets in Dubai for seven years. He has not received his salary of Dh1,000 for two months.
“I have a wife and a young child in Pakistan that I have to go back to,” Mr Rasheed said.
“It’s a very stressful time for me but my family is also getting worried, wondering why I have not been able to come back yet.”
He shares accommodation with seven other people in one room in the Murar district of Deira.
Areas bordering Al Ras and Naif have been subject to a two-week lockdown to enable the authorities to test residents and identify suspected cases.
“It was already very difficult, taking care of things with a Dh1,000 monthly salary, but now I am not receiving any money," Mr Rasheed said. "We don’t have food here either."
Inside a Covid-19 testing tent in Dubai’s Naif area
Aziz, 27, is a supervisor at a construction site in Dubai and has lived in the emirate for five years.
“I have my mother and two sisters in Sialkot who take care of and I need to go back," Aziz said. "There is no work left for us here."
He earns Dh2,000 but has not received a salary for two months.
“I am desperate to go back,” Aziz said. “We’ve been told we will receive a call once special flights have been arranged but have not heard back yet."