British Pakistani academics denounce UK media’s blame game on COVID-19

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 1st Jul, 2020 ) :The British Pakistani diaspora has strongly denounced the media campaign giving a false impression that the travel of people from Pakistan has had a significant contributory effect on the high COVID-19 death toll in the United Kingdom.

Professionals from the top UK universities and research institutes in a statement rejected the recent misleading article published on June 26 in the Daily Telegraph and later picked up by The Sun and The Daily Mail, entitled ‘Exclusive: Half of UK‘s imported Covid-19 infections are from Pakistan‘.

Chairman UPSIGN and Professor at University College London Jawwad A. Darr, Deputy Chair UPSIGN and Professor at Lancaster university Prof Ihtesham Rehman, Prof Tariq Butt from University of Swansea), Senior Lecturer at University of Sheffield Dr Parveen Ali, UPSIGN Co-lead Agriculture, and Innovation Manager Rothamsted Research Dr Khalid Mahmood, Manager UCL Madiha and Executive Director Global Educational Matters and President PTI Wales Riaz Hassan jointly signed the response.

The professionals mentioned that the news story referred to a purported modest 30 imported cases detected from Pakistani travelers since June 4th, compared to a staggering 311,000 confirmed cases in UK with COVID-19 to date.

In fact, as of May 7th, the UK death toll was a staggering 50 times that of Pakistan, they said in the statement.

“The Telegraph’s fake news headline, seeks to counter the real facts that most early infections in the UK (which have ultimately contributed to the high UK death toll), actually came from Europe, well before June,” the British Pakistanis said.

It was stressed that the highest number of cases reported in the UK were linked with people travelling from countries such as Spain (more than 33%), France (more than 28%) and Italy (14%). Pakistan was in fact not even considered notable in these figures.

“So high was the UK mortality rates from COVID-19, that many other countries actually put travel restrictions for British travelers until recently,” they said.

The representatives of Pakistani diaspora pointed out that whilst the numbers of infections and deaths in Pakistan had alarmingly risen recently, there was absolutely no scientific or other basis for travelers from Pakistan being responsible for the large number of deaths or significant spreading of COVID-19 in the UK.

They emphasized that “writing of misleading sensationalist headlines such as that in the Telegraph, clearly has racist undertones and will create a false narrative attributing the existence of colonial links for the UK‘s dire COVID-19 situation.” These fake headlines only feed racism, increase the likelihood of attacks on minorities and perpetuate stereotypes that Pakistanis are undesirables. This creates a sense of insecurity across all generations who are already struggling from lack of privilege and opportunities,” they said.

The British Pakistani professionals stressed that such kind of constant bashing of minority groups must stop.

“We believe that freedom of the press must be balanced with responsibilities to not create hysteria using fake sensationalist headlines which feed into the far right agenda,” they added.

They mentioned that the UK had allowed Islamophobia and far right groups to continue spreading hate unabated in the name of freedom of speech.

“This has led to a culture of generations of British Pakistanis continuing to feel marginalized and excluded from mainstream society and equal opportunities,” they said.

The professionals mentioned that the UK had worked hard to address the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic with NHS healthcare workers being at frontline where a large number of minority professionals disproportionately lost their lives due to COVID-19) compared to their white colleagues, factors of which still being investigated.

“This has reminded us of the valued contribution that many doctors and nurses originating from ‘former colonies’, play to keep our essential services going,” they said.

Nearly 1.7 million British Pakistanis live and work in the UK including as front line healthcare workers.

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