Covid-19 impact: UK MPs object to travel ban on Pakistan, Bangladesh

Passengers near sign for Covid-19 testing centre at London Heathrow airport. — AFP
Passengers near sign for Covid-19 testing centre at London Heathrow airport. — AFP

London - The ban to be effective from 4am on Friday increases the number of countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ to 39

By Prasun Sonwalkar

Published: Thu 8 Apr 2021, 4:52 PM

British Members of Parliament (MPs) from across the political spectrum have raised “major concerns” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the imposition of a travel ban on visitors from Pakistan and Bangladesh from 4am on Friday (April 9), which has adversely affected travel plans of many.

The ban, announced following new data that showed an increased risk of importation of Covid-19 variants of concern, has also been imposed on visitors from Kenya and the Philippines. The ban increases the number of countries on the United Kingdom’s (UK) ‘red list’ to 39.

Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights in the UK, including long-term visa holders, will be allowed to enter, but must stay in a government-approved quarantine facility for 10 days on arrival, officials said.

Several MPs of Pakistani and Bangladesh heritage were joined by others in a letter to Johnson, informing him that placing the two countries under the ban would have a “huge impact” on UK residents. Many of their constituents had been affected, they wrote.

“We have major concerns about the lack of available data and evidential and scientific reasoning which have been used to put these countries on the red list. Based on available data, many other countries not on the red list have more positive Covid tests per 100,000 people than Pakistan. The current rate of infection in Pakistan is also reportedly lower than the UK,” they wrote.

The MPs alleged that the ban had been imposed without providing clear evidence, and asked the government to explore the possibility of arranging charter flights or provide financial support for those stranded in the two countries, or extend the cut-off date.

The letter said: “The vast majority would have travelled to visit family, including elderly relatives, whom they have not seen for over a year. They would already have paid for return flights but are now in a position where they will have to pay for new flights in order to return before the ban is put in place.

“The vast majority of UK residents currently in those countries will have had to save up for some time to fly over there. Most are not rich or even moderately wealthy people, but are working-class citizens. We feel that the government should do everything it can to help our constituents left stranded by this decision,” it added.

Signatories to the letter include Yasmin Qureshi, Khalid Mahmood, Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra, Valerie Vaz, Apsana Begum, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Rupa Haq, Navendu Mishra, John McDonnell, and Kim Johnson.

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