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Naz Shah deplores Pakistan bashing over imported virus cases to UK

Top Story

June 29, 2020

LONDON: Labour MP Naz Shah has condemned the “sensational and misleading headline” in a section of British media which claimed Pakistan was responsible for 50 per cent of the total imported coronavirus cases to the UK — using Public Health England (PHE) data of merely 30 cases since 4 June.

Naz Shah, who serves as the Member of Parliament from Bradford West said: “Last week I was told to go back to Pakistan, today we have articles like this. Any wonder why we still have P*** bashing. Only 30 cases came from Pakistan since 4th June.”

The MP argued that the headline and story unfairly shifted the blame of the UK’s failures on Pakistan. More than 65,000 people have travelled to Britain on 190 flights since March 1 from Pakistan. The newspaper story mentions that “Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows that 30 cases of coronavirus in people who have travelled from Pakistan since June 4, which is understood to represent half of the incidents of imported infection.”

The same data was picked up by two other British news outlets to argue that 50 per cent of imported cases came from Pakistan.

Doctor Syed Khurram Mushtaq Gardezi, a cardiologist based at Imperial College Healthcare Trust London and a researcher from University of Oxford, strongly refuted those baseless claims. Dr Gardezi said the UK had the second highest mortality from Covid-19 in the world only behind USA. He said: “Taking this into account most of the world countries including European countries have therefore put on travel restrictions for British travellers instead. Such baseless claims are likely to create more problems for British travellers.”

Replying to a request for comment by The News, the author of the story confirmed the British newspaper did not have any further evidence or data to back their claims. He said: “It is based on our understanding of PHE (Public Health England) data. The only information they are providing publicly is that figure.”

While the right wing British media has been criticising repatriation flights from Pakistan, it was the British government and the British High Commission in Islamabad which arranged repatriation flights from Pakistan. Qatar Airways was chosen for these flights with the Pakistani government facilitating the British government in regards to the permissions for these flights.

It is also pertinent to mention that by May 7, the day of the last repatriation flight, Pakistan had only 24,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 585 deaths while the UK had 206,000 cases, ten times more than Pakistan, and 30,000 deaths, 50 times more than Pakistan. The UK did not screen or quarantine passengers arriving from various countries until June.

Commenting on the information provided to the British newspaper, a spokesperson for PHE told The News it had shared the background information with the newspaper. The spokesman said: “Since the 4th June, there have been a small number of cases (approx. 30) detected in the UK with recent travel from Pakistan. This is not unique to the UK and other countries have also recently reported the detection of cases with recent travel to Pakistan. Upon detection of any imported cases, the PHE international contact tracing team follows up any close contacts, including on flights and in the UK.

“Where there may be contacts in the originating country, information is passed on to the respective country under the International Health Regulations (2005) in order to facilitate follow up of contacts in that country. Travel associated cases of Covid-19 are not unexpected as response measures are relaxed globally and international travel resumes. “In regards to the cases from Pakistan, PHE shared information with Pakistan through the National Focal Point and with the FCO and the British High Commissioner in Pakistan to inform wider discussions with the Government of Pakistan.”