CHAOTIC scenes unfolded at Islamabad Airport in Pakistan as travellers raced to get home to the UK before yesterday’s 4am ‘red list’ deadline.
People trying desperately to make it home in time to avoid the hotel quarantine recorded footage of the packed terminal, with one would-be traveller in the scrum calling it the “worst experience ever”.
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British Pakistanis desperate to return home to the UK before tough new rules come in packed out airportsCredit: Twitter
Pakistan has now been added to the Government’s ‘red list’Credit: Twitter
No temperature checks appear to have been carried out, although passengers needed to show evidence of a negative Covid test.
They’ll also have to take further tests two and eight days after they get home.
But those who made it back to Britain before 4am on Friday won’t have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel.
Instead, they’ll be able to isolate in their own homes.
Imran Khan from Aylesbury was at Lahore Airport for a British Airways flight with nine children, including three babies. A woman in a wheelchair was also with his party.
Thousands of UK residents are believed to still be in the countryCredit: Twitter
An Aylesbury man travelling with nine children and a woman in a wheelchair was told he was unable to board his flightCredit: Twitter
Video footage recorded in Islamabad shows people crowding into the airport to try to get homeCredit: Twitter/@drfaheemhaider
But the travellers, who had spent £15,000 to return, were told the flight was closed – even though they arrived early.
More than 20 flights are understood to have been chartered to return to the UK from Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore in the past 24 hours.
Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East, has called on Boris Johnson to lay on chartered flights.
Pakistan is suffering a surge in infections, and has become one of the countries on the UK’s ‘red list’.
Its spike is being driven by the super-infectious Kent variant.
What are the rules for travellers returning from ‘red list’ countries?
British nationals or residents returning to the UK will have to pay to quarantine at a Government-approved hotel.
In England, this costs £1,750 per passenger travelling alone, to cover transport, tests, food and accommodation.
Every additional adult, or child over 12, must pay £650, while children aged five to 12 pay £325.
They must also have proof of a negative coronavirus test to enter the UK.
Rule-breakers face strict penalties – including prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Non-British nationals or residents who have passed through red countries will be refused UK entry.
There are more than a million British Pakistanis, and people travelling for celebrations have been blamed for the rise in cases.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Pakistan International Airlines and Polish carrier Enter Air have arranged extra direct flights in recent days.
According to data from the website FlightRadar24, five flights were scheduled to land in England direct from the Pakistani capital Islamabad yesterday.
Some of the last-minute seats were going for more than £1,400.
According to a recent BBC North West Tonight report, around 32,000 travellers flew from the UK to Pakistan in January alone.
Foreign travel is currently illegal in Britain, but is allowed in special circumstances such as for work or to study.
Travelling to get married or to attend the wedding of a close relative who lives abroad is allowed under exceptional circumstances.
The Philippines, Kenya and Bangladesh also joined the red list at 4am this morning.
Countries are added to the list due to their links with concerning Covid variants.
Which countries are on the red list?
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and the Philippines are now on the list. Other countries are:
- Middle East: Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- Africa: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
- Asia: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines
- South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela
Countries can be added to the list with just a few hours’ notice.