The United Kingdom (UK)’s decision to add a number of countries, including Pakistan, to its “red list” barring any travel to the UK has invited criticism globally.

British Member of Parliament (MP) Naz Shah raised objection against the step in a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking why Pakistan was red-listed while counties with a higher rate of COVID cases were not.

“Why aren’t countries which have significant more cases, including the South African variant, not on the red list too?” she asked, adding that France has 10 times the number of cases in Pakistan yet does not have any restrictions.

Shah’s letter was shared by Pakistani Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar, who said the the UK government’s decision “raises a legitimate question whether choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy.”

In her letter, Naz Shah noted that France, Germany, and India had 403, 137, and 24 COVID infections per 100,000 persons, respectively, whereas Pakistan had only 13.

“What scientific data is any decision being led by?” she asked.

She said the policy was “knowingly and consciously discriminating against Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora community,” and the British government was making decisions based on “politics not data.”

Others on social media have also pointed out the inconsistencies of the policy, crediting it to “COVID diplomacy” instead of concern about the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the government of Kenya also termed the UK’s decision discriminatory.

“This unilateral decision does not reflect prevailing logic and scientific knowledge of the disease or the spread of the pandemic. Rather the decision seems to be motivated by a discriminatory policy against certain countries and peoples,” the Kenyan ministry of foreign affairs said.

The ‘red list’

The UK government released an announcement on April 2 to place add Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, and the Philippines to its travel “red list” to protect itself from the new variants of coronavirus, banning entry to people arriving from those countries unless they are British or Irish nationals.

Those who come to Britain from countries on the red list will be refused entry while returning Britons must submit to 10 days of mandatory quarantine in hotels.

From 4 am on April 9, Pakistan, Kenya, the Philippines, and Bangladesh will be put on the list, the UK government said, joining about three dozen other nations mainly in Africa, the Middle East, and South America.

“Red listing means that the only UK and Irish nationals and those with residency rights in the UK will be allowed to travel to the UK if they’ve been in Pakistan in the 10 days before they arrive,” announced British High Commissioner to Pakistan Christian Turner on Twitter.

The British government’s foreign travel advice for Pakistan said that the restrictions would also apply to anyone transiting through Pakistan in the 10 days prior to their arrival in the UK.

“As you know, the U.K. government has been keeping its border measures under close review because of COVID-19. Today, it is announced that Pakistan has been added to the UK’s red list of travel ban countries,” said Turner. While direct flights between the countries would continue, he said, anyone traveling from Pakistan to the UK after April 9 would be required to “pay to stay in mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 days after they arrive.”

The British nationals returning from Pakistan will be quarantined at hotels for ten days after paying Rs3.68 lacs.

There have been calls for the inclusion of some European countries where COVID-19 cases have surged, but the government has said it currently has no plans to do so.


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