Thousands rush back to UK from Pakistan as 'red list' deadline looms

India McTaggart
At least 30 extra flights have been operated from Pakistan to the UK in the last week
At least 30 extra flights have been operated from Pakistan to the UK in the last week
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Thousands of travellers from Pakistan are racing back to the UK on chartered flights in a bid to beat the deadline before the country is added to the UK's 'red list' of high-risk countries. 

At 4am on Friday, all passengers arriving from Pakistan, the Philippines, Kenya and Bangladesh will face Britain's strict hotel quarantine policy, requiring arrivals to isolate in a Government-approved hotel for 11 days at a cost of up to £1,750 per person.

Watch: COVID-19 - Pakistan, Kenya, Bangladesh and the Philippines added to England's travel 'red list'

The 39 hotel quarantine 'red list' countries
The 39 hotel quarantine 'red list' countries

Many unusual aircraft movements have been spotted this week since the UK Government's announcement. The Independent calculated that at least 30 extra flights have been operated from Pakistan to the UK in the last week, with around 5,000 to 7,000 additional recorded arrivals to normal numbers.

Among the aircraft arriving in the UK was a trio of planes belonging to Enter Air, a Polish charter airline, which were spotted heading to Birmingham airport from the Pakistani capital via Moscow.

An Airbus A330 operated by HiFly Malta, a Maltese charter airline, was recorded shuttling between Islamabad and Manchester five times in the last week. While a chartered plane from Wamos Air, the Spanish carrier, has been scheduled from Islamabad to London Stansted with final seats going for around 300,000 rupees, or over £1,400 one way.

Fares have also soared on traditional airlines, with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and PIA - the Pakistani carrier - laying on additional nonstop flights to meet the increase in demand.

Many of those arriving from Pakistan have come via hubs in other countries such as Turkey, because the traditional Gulf routes via Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi are not possible as the UAE and Qatar have already been added to the red list.

Thousands of UK citizens in Pakistan, who have no idea when the red list restrictions might be lifted, are fueling the spike in demand as they hope to enter the UK while only required to self-isolate at home for 10 days, or five if they take part in the Test and Release scheme.

The harsh reality of hotel quarantine is also behind the trend, with travellers required to remain confined to their rooms or apartments for the entire duration and food delivered directly to their rooms.

The Health Secretary said that anyone who tries to conceal their arrival from a red list country could face jail sentences of up to 10 years or fines up to £10,000.

All arrivals travelling into the UK must also provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test before boarding their flight and are required to take further PCR tests on days two and eight after their arrival.

Arrivals from the other three nations facing imminent addition to the red list are fewer.

More than 5,300 cases of coronavirus were recorded in Pakistan on Thursday, and a third spike in cases is being driven by the more transmissible variant first detected in Kent

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