Monday September 27, 2021

UK govt right to add Pakistan to corona Red List: judge

UK govt right to add Pakistan to corona Red List: judge

LONDON: The UK High Court of Justice on Friday ruled that Pakistan cannot be taken off the Red List until the UK government takes a decision on the travel ban to the Red List countries.

At the London High Court, Justice Linden ruled that Pakistan cannot be removed from the Red List as the UK government has a responsibility to deal with the pandemic to save lives and the government's decision was correct to take steps to deal with the pandemic.

The judicial review challenge against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care was initiated at the High Court by Barrister Zahab Jamali on behalf of three British Pakistani nationals, Omer Khalid, Yasir Wahab and Faisal Saeed, who were affected by the UK government’s decision in early April to impose travel ban on Pakistan.

The challenge was based on the arguments that despite having a comparatively higher number of infections and being associated with what is now known as the Delta variant, India was not added to this list until April 23, but Pakistan was added to the list on April 9, while it had the lowest infection rate at that time.

During the proceedings in the court, the UK government conceded that its figures and position in respect of genomic sequence data that was relied upon to put Pakistan on the list was not correct, and the government accepted the claimant’s proposed figures on genomic sequence were correct.

Pakistan began filing genomic sequences in 2021 but while putting Pakistan on the Red List, the government had assessed that Pakistan had not filed genomic sequences of December, 2020 and the UK government conceded this during the proceedings.

It emerged that the government had relied on three to four figures, data and considerations for determining which countries should be put on the Red List but now it is clear that at least one of these was factually incorrect. The government has not released any detailed data to justify these figures as well.

The claimants are now challenging the decision in the Court of Appeal on the issue of genomic sequencing, said Barrister Zahab Jamali. It’s understood that in another case the government has conceded that its policy on charging £1,750 might not have been comprehensive enough to cover everything, so a new policy in due course will be made public.

Barrister Rashid Ahmed, who had launched a separate case challenging the UK government’s decision to include Pakistan in the Red List, said his case will continue. He said: “The UK government has to answer why it added Pakistan to the Red List whilst staying silent on the countries where the Covid-19 pandemic was raging at the time. We continue to stress that Pakistanis were discriminated against and the UK government acted with bad intentions at that time. The government must consider compensating those who have suffered as a result of its actions.”

The data presented to the court showed that on April 2, 2021, Pakistan and Kenya had a lower risk as compared to other countries such as India, Bangladesh, Brazil, US, Spain, Germany and France. According to the data, per 100,000 people, Pakistan had the second lowest figure as compared to the countries listed above, pipped only by Kenya. The figure of 3,070 stands in comparison to 34,065 for Germany, 70,397 for Spain, 71,929 for France, 76,613 for Belgium and 94,393 for the United States -- all of which remain off the Red List.

The data provided to the court said that India posed an interesting picture for comparison as it had double the number of cases per 100,000 population (8,915) but was not added to the travel ban list until April 23, much later than Pakistan, and what must have followed a surge in cases.