Thursday Aug 05, 2021
LONDON: Pakistan has asked the British government to remove its name from England's "red" list, Pakistan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Moazzam Ahmed Khan said Thursday, following the latest review by Britain of its travel curbs.
The passengers on the red list require a costly 10-day hotel quarantine on arrival. Georgia, Mexico, and France's Indian Ocean territories of La Reunion, and Mayotte have also been moved onto the red list.
Moreover, passengers from red list countries need to take a COVID-19 test before they enter England — children aged 10 and under do not need to take it.
The changes — which will come into effect at 0300 GMT on Sunday — put India, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, and France on England's so-called "amber" list of countries, under its traffic light system for arriving travellers.
The government last month eased the rules to allow people from amber countries fully jabbed with a vaccine approved by regulators in the United States and European Union to enter without having to self-isolate.
The amber list mandates virus tests before and after arrival for those jabbed in those territories.
Meanwhile, Khan said the coronavirus situation is better in Pakistan, except for Karachi, "and our government has done tremendous work in its COVID-19 response".
"Pakistan's coronavirus response has been acknowledged globally," he said. The Economist, in a report, had ranked Pakistan at number three out of 50 countries who performed well in controlling the COVID-19 spread.
The British government should "appreciate Pakistan's coronavirus response, review its decisions, and consider Pakistan's recommendations," the envoy added.
Britain has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with 130,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive test since the outbreak began.
But the government has gradually eased restrictions, as vaccination numbers increased, cutting numbers of hospital admissions with COVID.
Some 88.7% of all adults have now had the first dose, and 73.2% two doses, according to the latest government figures.
All Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pakistan chief Yasmin Qureshi and MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, slammed the British government for keeping Pakistan on the red list and removing India, Qatar, and other countries from it.
British lawmakers Yasmin Qureshi and Naz Shah were of the view that coronavirus rates in Pakistan were averaging around 4,500 per day, around five times lower than the United Kingdom but in India, where the delta variant emerged and precipitated Britain’s third wave, cases are at around 40,000 per day.
Pakistan has done relatively well compared to its neighbours and has managed to do this whilst avoiding a lockdown, Qureshi said.
"I am dismayed at the government’s decision to keep Pakistan on the travel red list whilst removing other countries in the Middle East and South Asia region. Pakistan has no variant of concern reported and cases remain relatively low when compared with India and the UK yet is punished unnecessarily," she said.
“These changes point to one thing and one thing only — government politicking. The government has opted to remove India now to best prepare them for trade negotiations and is not based on data nor science.”
"These travel restrictions are wreaking havoc with people across the United Kingdom. The Pakistani diaspora totals around 1.1mn in the UK and I have been inundated with correspondence which details students unable to access their courses because of punitive and extortionate quarantine costs and children unable to see their often sick parents and grandparents," she said.
Labour MP for Bradford West Naz Shah said: "The last time this govt favoured political choices rather than science and risked our nation’s Covid efforts, it failed to place India on the Red list."
"That led to the Delta Variant becoming the most prominent Covid variant in the UK. Whilst families have been forced away from loved ones for months, it is unacceptable for decisions to be made in such ways," she added.
Another MP, Afzal Khan, said the British government's decision to keep Pakistan on the red list for travel is very surprising, especially considering it has moved India to the amber list despite having a higher infection rate along with the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar.
"Once again, the government appears to be putting politics before science."
Travel restrictions are wreaking havoc on people's lives across the UK, particularly the significant Pakistani community, Khan said.
Khan said to add insult to injury, UK has also chosen to hike up the cost of hotel quarantine for those travellers returning from red list countries, costing families thousands of pounds.
"I will continue to raise my objections with this decision with the government and call on concrete data to be published to support the announcement," he added.
— Additional input from AFP