Pakistan red list petition: Fury as country remains on most high risk list in travel update

MP accuses government of ‘blatant discrimination towards Pakistan’

Helen Coffey
Friday 06 August 2021 12:16 BST
Pakistan is still on the red list
Pakistan is still on the red list (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The latest update to the government’s travel lists sparked fury in some quarters, after India was bumped up to the amber list while Pakistan remains red.

A petition demanding that Pakistan be taken off the high-risk list has garnered over 114,000 signatures, with more than 50,000 of those added within the last 24 hours.

It has reached the threshold of 100,000, meaning the issue will be considered for debate in Parliament.

“Thousands of people are stuck in Pakistan!” reads the petition, which was launched in April after the country was first included on the red list.

“Families are struggling financially and don’t have enough to come with! No direct flights are being run! Help us come home!”

India’s inclusion on the amber list in the traffic light list reshuffle on 8 August, while its neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh are stuck on red, prompted frustrations to resurface within the Pakistani community in the UK.

According to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Pakistan’s rate of Covid cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days is 21.72; India’s is currently almost double that, at 39.98.

Two Labour MPs have led the charge in calling for Pakistan to be removed from the red list, which necessitates hotel quarantine for all arrivals when they reach the UK, at a cost of £1,750, rising to £2,285 from 12 August.

Yasmin Qureshi, MP Bolton and South East and chair of the All Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pakistan, said it was “clear and blatant discrimination towards Pakistan” and accused the government of making public health decisions based on securing future trade agreements.

“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,” she said.

“Pakistan has no variant of concern reported and cases remain relatively low when compared with India and the UK yet is punished unnecessarily.

“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.”

Meanwhile Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, called the government’s behaviour “callous” and accused them of favouring “political choices rather than science”.

The UK is gearing up to start trade negotiations with India in the next few months. The Department of International Trade told Bloomberg that the two countries are currently “in the pre-negotiation scoping phase of an FTA” with the aim of starting negotiations proper in autumn of this year.

The Department of Health and Social Care said in response to the petition: “The government has made it consistently clear it will take decisive action, if necessary, to contain the virus and Pakistan has been added to the red list to protect public health.

“The government recognise the impact that the decision to place Pakistan on the red list will have on individuals. However, it is right that the government does all it can to reduce the risk of new strains of Covid-19 being imported into the UK.”

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