UK: Half of Imported Coronavirus Cases Come from Pakistan

A Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777 comes in over houses, to land at Heathrow airport in west London as the UK government's planned 14-day quarantine for international arrivals to limit the spread of Covid-19 starts on June 8, 2020. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via …
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

People arriving from Pakistan brought half of all the imported coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom since March, a report has found.

As a result of the United Kingdom refusing to close down travel from virus hotspots during the pandemic, over 65,000 people from Pakistan — most of whom are believed to hold British passports — arrived in the country since March 1st.

Pakistan, which is reporting around 4,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day, is considered a “high-risk” country for the virus, but despite the inability or unwillingness of the Pakistani government to introduce effective containment measures, travellers from the Islamic Republic have been free to flood into the country.

Officials in Whitehall are reportedly worried that the revelations could spark a backlash against attempts to establish so-called open-air bridges with EU nations. British officials are also concerned that they will now have little ground to criticise countries like Portugal for failing to block imported cases from its former colony of Brazil.

“We can’t take people off the list because they might import cases from their former colonies”, a Whitehall official told the paper.

“Diplomatically we have to rate [them] to see actual uncontrolled spread. Imagine if people said that about the UK with our links to the U.S. We’d be fuming,” the official added.

Pakistan International Airlines said it been flying directly to the United Kingdom without quarantine since April, with limited flights at first, however, in the past week, the airline has resumed its normal schedule of flights to Manchester and London.

A spokesperson for the airline claimed that all passengers were subjected to temperature screenings and were required to wear masks.

This week, other such as including Dubai and South Korea have cut travel from Pakistan amid a spike in cases. The Emirates airline suspended flights from the South Asian country after 30 passengers tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong on June 22nd.

There has been no indication that the British government or British airlines will follow suit, however.

The British government is expected to finally introduce mandatory quarantines for those arriving from foreign countries next month, in order to prevent a second wave of the virus.

A quarantine expert at Exeter University’s medical school, Bharat Pankhania, cautioned that the government should focus its energies on screening arrivals from high-risk countries like Pakistan rather than imposing restrictions on the whole world, which would likely be largely unenforced.

“As soon as a country reaches a set threshold, then special screening and tests are done on all individual arrivals at the border. If they are staying in Bath, for example, then the local public health director is alerted and they are subject to on-the-door checks by his or her team,” Pankhania said.

“You also need to make it clear that this is a serious issue if you are coming from an at-risk country, and increase the penalties for breaches… to prison and/or £10,000 fine,” he suggested.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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