Why is Pakistan on UK red list? Why it has remained on highest travel risk category - and when it could change

MPs have said that the decision to keep Pakistan on the red travel list is the Government ‘playing politics with the quarantine system’

Since April, Pakistan has been included on the Government’s red travel list, meaning that almost all travel from the country is banned - and those who are able to return to England face costs of more than £2,000 for government-approved quarantine hotels.

This is what you need to know about the situation - and when Pakistan could be moved off the red list.

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Why is Pakistan on the red list?

People wait for their turn to get a dose of a vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus outside a mobile vaccination health unit in Lahore, Pakistan (Photo: ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Government determines which list a country or territory should be placed on in the traffic light system by considering a number of key factors, including:

- The percentage of their population that have been vaccinated against Covid-19

- The rate of infection

- The prevalence of variants of concern

- The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing

Reuters reports that the average number of Covid-19 deaths reported each day in Pakistan has been increasing for seven days straight.

On average each day, Pakistan is reporting 4,501 new infections - however, France, which is on the amber list and therefore requires less strict entry rules into England, has much higher rates of infection, with the 23,586 new infections reported on average each day.

It has been reported that the reason that Pakistan remains on the red list is due to the low vaccine rate in the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as of 12 August 2021, a total of 39,712,007 vaccine doses have been administered.

Speaking to Sky News, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “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.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson added: "Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority - public health - and traffic light allocations are based on a range of factors including genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk and variants of concern."

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What has the reaction been like to Pakistan remaining on the red list?

The Government has faced criticism for its decision to keep Pakistan on the red list.

Earlier this month, MPs called on the Government to remove Pakistan from the red list.

Labour MPs Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) and Naz Shah (Bradford West) wrote to Shapps questioning the decision to keep Pakistan on the red list whilst neighbouring countries like India, with higher Covid rates, have been moved to the amber list.

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 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.”

When is the next travel update?

The Government reviews the traffic light system every three weeks, with the latest update from Shapps having happened on Wednesday 4 August.

This means that the next review should be announced on either Wednesday 25 or Thursday 26 August.

Any changes announced in the next update should then come into effect on the following Monday (30 August).

What are the red list country rules?

Currently, those returning to England from a red list country or territory will only be permitted entry if they are a British or Irish national, or have residence rights in the UK.

Regardless of your vaccination status, prior to travelling to England, you must:

- Take a Covid-19 test and get a negative result during the three days before you travel - for example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you must have taken your test, and received a negative result, on either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday

- Book a managed quarantine hotel within a 14 day period before arrival. This booking will include your hotel, quarantine transport and travel tests for Covid-19 tests on day two and day eight of quarantine

- Complete a passenger locator form with details of where you will quarantine when you arrive - you must also provide a quarantine package invoice number to complete your passenger locator form

On arrival in England, you must quarantine in your booked managed hotel with two Covid-19 tests.

How do I book a quarantine managed hotel?

You can book your quarantine managed hotel via the Government CTM portal.

If you’re having trouble making a booking, you should phone +44 (0)20 7429 9732.

The cost of the quarantine managed hotel goes as follows:

- One adult in one room for 10 days (11 nights): £2,285

- Additional rate for one adult (or child over 11): £1,430

- Additional rate for a child aged five to 11: £325

There is no charge for children under five.

The cost of managed quarantine includes food, transport, security, testing and essential wraparound services, such as medical care and welfare checks.

Should you need to extend your stay because of a positive Covid-19 test on either day two or day eight, you will not be charged extra.

Regarding the cost, the Government states: “You may be able to apply for an alternative payment arrangement if you’re facing significant financial hardship as a result of these charges.

“You can only apply for an alternative payment arrangement if you’re eligible.”

If you have not arranged a quarantine package before arriving in England, you can be fined up to £4,000. You will still have to pay for your quarantine package on arrival.

If you’re required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel, you can only arrive in England at certain ports. Currently, these ports are:

- Heathrow Airport

- Gatwick Airport

- London City Airport

- Birmingham Airport

- Bristol Airport

- Farnborough Airport

- Biggin Hill Airport

The Government says: “If you are required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel and do not arrive in England at one of the designated ports of entry, you may face a penalty of up to £10,000 and will be charged for the cost of transportation to the nearest designated port or entry.”

What’s the latest FCDO Pakistan travel advice?

Currently, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all travel to:

- The areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas

- The districts of Charsadda, Kohat, Tank, Bannu, Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Buner and Lower Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

- The city of Peshawar and districts south of the city

- Travel on the Peshawar to Chitral road via the Lowari Pass

- Balochistan province including the city of Quetta but excluding the southern coast of Balochistan

- The section of the Karakoram Highway (also known as Kara Karam Highway or KKH) from Mansehra to Chilas, via Battagram, Besham City, Dasu and Sazin up to the junction with the N15

- The immediate vicinity of the Line of Control

The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to:

- Arandu town and the road between Mirkhani and Arandu in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province

- The southern coast of Balochistan, defined as the area south of (and including) the N10 motorway as well as the section of the N25 which runs from N10/N25 intersection to the Balochistan/Sindh border, including the port city of Gwadar

- Areas of Sindh Province north of, and including, the city of Nawabshah

- The remainder of Pakistan based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks