MPs have demanded an explanation for why Pakistan has been “punished” and remains on the travel red list – despite having lower Covid rates than India, which has been removed.
Labour MPs Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) and Naz Shah (Bradford West) have both written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps questioning why the South Asian country was still on the no-go list when neighbouring India has been moved to the amber list.
They accused ministers of “playing politics” with the travel alert system, and said it was only opening up the UK to nations “it stands to benefit from economically”.
Figures cited by both MPs suggest the seven-day Covid rate in India is 20 per 100,000 people, compared with 14 per 100,000 people in Pakistan.
Qureshi added the “raw amount of cases” in Pakistan is “five times lower” than the UK.
Qureshi, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, wrote: “Yet again, the government appears to be punishing Pakistan and rewarding nations which Britain stands to benefit from economically.
“This is an identical situation to last April, when Pakistan was initially placed on the red list and India’s change was delayed in order to allow the prime minister the option to travel to India for a trade deal.”
Shah wrote: “Many of my constituents and those from the Pakistani diaspora across the UK have families who have been stuck in Pakistan for months. Elderly parents and grandparents, who are unable to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine and unable to get exemptions due to the strict conditions and who have waited months to be reunited with loved ones.”
She added: “Even today, there are those who are taking their last breaths without their family members present and yet this government is still playing politics with the quarantine system.”
UK residents “should not travel” to any country on the red list according to the Government, whereas the amber list allows travel on the condition of a 10-day quarantine once travellers return.
‘Whole load of theories’
On Thursday morning, the transport secretary explained the reasoning behind why some countries had been moved from the red list to amber list.
Shapps told Sky News: “With all these changes I often see a whole load of theories behind why a particular country has been opened and another one hasn’t, but with all these changes what we do is ask the experts, that’s the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the JBC in this case, to give us their overview of every country and their recommendation about where a country should sit.
“This time they have come back and said Dubai, and Qatar, the UAE and in fact India – which will surprise some people – are all fit to come from the red list and come onto the amber list.”
He said factors for moving countries from the red list included the number of people who had a jab there, the reliability of local Covid data, and the level of prevalence of the virus.
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