UK defends putting India on travel ‘red list’ two weeks after Pakistan. Hancock explains
- The UK government has been facing criticism, especially from the Opposition parties, for not putting India on the travel 'red list' along with its neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh, in early April.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday defended the timing of the travel ban on India amid concerns that the coronavirus variant first identified in the subcontinent could likely become the dominant variant in Britain. Hancock told Sky News that variant B.1.617.2 was notified as a variant under investigation after the government had already put India on the travel “red list”.
“The decision to put India on the red list was taken because of the high positivity rate of people coming from India and looking at the epi-curve in India,” he said.
The UK government has been facing criticism, especially from the Opposition parties, for not banning travel from India when its neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh, were put on the red list.
Pakistan and Bangladesh were added to the travel ban list on April 2 and the implementation came into effect on April 9, when India was reporting more than 100,000 Covid-19 cases per day and witnessing an exponential surge. The United Kingdom placed India on the red list on April 19 and the travel ban came into effect from April 23.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who chairs a parliamentary committee on Home Affairs, shared a graph from her Twitter handle on Friday, comparing the rise in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“This is incredibly frustrating. The steep increase in cases of the India variant in the UK was NOT inevitable. Why did PM not put India on the red list 2 weeks earlier when Pakistan and Bangladesh were added to red list? And why did they then delay a further 4 days to implement?” tweeted Cooper.
Matt Hancock said that Pakistan was put on the travel ban list at the start of April since the Covid-19 positivity rate among people travelling from Pakistan to Britain was three times higher than those travelling from India. “[A]nd it was only after we put India on the red list that this variant went under investigation, and then earlier this month it became a variant of concern,” he added.
In another TV appearance, the health secretary said that it is “quite likely” the virus variant from India will become the dominant variant in Britain. “We don’t know exactly how much more transmissible it is but I think it is likely it will become the dominant variant here,” Hancock told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.