The UK government on Friday put Pakistan on the “red list” of countries effective April 9, a decision it said was based on advice from public health experts as well as scientific data. The move has thwarted travel plans of British Pakistanis hoping to spend Ramazan and Eid with their families (considering the cost of a 10-day quarantine on their return to the UK), though speculation about travel restrictions started early in March when reported cases in the capital and Punjab saw a significant increase.
Effective Friday next week, passengers from Pakistan will be denied entry to the UK unless they are British or Irish nationals or have residency rights. The cost for one adult in a government-approved hotel room for 10 days is £1,750, which does not include the mandatory £210 each passenger has to pay for testing in this period. A negative PCR test in this time does not shorten the duration of the quarantine. Meanwhile a British Labour MP has criticised the UK government’s decision to curtail travel from Pakistan in view of Covid-19 cases, dubbing the move “consciously and knowingly discriminatory”. Bradford West MP Naz Shah wrote a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking for an explanation about why Pakistan was added to the ‘red list’ when it has “substantially lower cases” as compared to France, India and Germany.
This is not surprising. The third wave of the coronavirus in Pakistan is at a peak—with the country reporting 5,234 cases in 24 hours. Pakistan’s vaccination programme has also faced a host of problems—the vaccination drive is still far behind that of many countries.
According to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, only 0.8 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered. So far, only health workers or those aged 60 and older have received the vaccine, and that too has faced some resistance from vaccine sceptics, even from healthcare workers. There is also the looming problem of shortage of the vaccine. There have been some positive developments on that aspect—Pakistan is set to receive another batch of 500,000 doses of the Chinese-developed Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, bringing the total number of doses procured in the last 24 hours to more than a million.
The announcement came as Pakistan’s National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) for Covid-19 reported over 5,000 new cases in the previous 24 hours, with over 80 deaths. The government has been criticised for low testing and a slow vaccination drive, and officials have warned that the third wave of the disease is yet to peak. MP Shah said the decision to include Pakistan in the ‘red list’ led her to conclude that the government did not have a coherent strategy to deal with the list and that it was applying its decisions by “politics not data”.
It is really worrying sign for Pakistan, Pakistan has already been left out of Biden’s climate conference and now UK has put a ban on Pakistan. As the British MP rightly said that all this is politics and not data. Yet we should be sure that all this is the failure of Pakistan’s foreign policy.