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PIA seeks additional flights to UK ahead of Covid-19 travel ban

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has asked the United Kingdom to allow four additional flights to the country until April 9 after which it will ban entry to people from four countries, including Pakistan, as part of measures to combat the new, deadlier Covid-19 variant it exported to the world.

London on Friday banned international arrivals from four more countries — Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, and the Philippines — unless they hold dual nationality of Britain or Ireland in view of concerns over new virus variants but opted against including European nations that are facing a resurgence of the virus.

“People are desperately trying to go back to England before April 9, we have requested four additional flights to the United Kingdom and we sincerely hope that we will get permission by today [Monday] or tomorrow [Tuesday],” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Niazi told Arab News.

“By now, we have operated three flights and we have transported nearly 900 passengers [to the UK],” Khan said.

The airline, he said, had planned to operate four more flights to Britain until April 7 through which “we are hopeful to accommodate 1,000 more passengers”.

PIA would be able to accommodate another 1,000 passengers if London allowed the four additional flights, Niazi added.

While London claims the decision to suspend travel from the aforementioned nations was based on advice from public health experts and scientific data, no European nations are placed on the red list, even though much of Europe is witnessing a resurgence of the virus that has prompted many countries to reimpose lockdown restrictions.

Health experts say the surge is being driven by virus variants, including Britain one, that are sweeping the continent.

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Saturday questioned the decision to place Pakistan on the so-called red list of countries.

“Every country has a right to take decisions to safeguard the health of their citizens,” he said in a tweet. “However, the recent decision by the UK government to add some countries, including Pakistan, on the ‘red list’ raises a legitimate question whether the choice of countries is based on science or foreign policy.”

The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced questions in recent days as to why France, which is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in Europe, is not on the list. Yet putting France on the red list could have serious implications for trade flows in and out of the UK, given its reliance on traffic from cross-Channel ports.

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