When Mohammed Khan’s small travel agency in Bolton began receiving calls from India and Pakistan from people desperate to fly home in early April, he realised something was badly wrong.
About 1,500 residents of the Lancashire town are thought to have travelled to South Asia in February and March after months of lockdown.
Many of them, believes Mr Khan, were flouting Government rules on non-essential travel.
But weeks later, as India began to see an explosion of coronavirus cases, those families were rushing to get back to the UK before Pakistan and India were put on the Government’s ‘red list’, requiring them to quarantine in a UK hotel for ten days at a cost of £1,750.
Locals believe this rush to return may have brought the so-called Indian variant to the town, made worse by the refusal of some to self-isolate at home for ten days.
Mr Khan – not his real name – is angry at the behaviour of that minority.
‘It’s very selfish. People just think about themselves and their own pleasure.
‘Just because you can’t go to a restaurant or a cinema for a few months, you want to go to a completely different country,’ he says.
Coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on Bolton, once among the biggest textile producers in the world, but now, in some parts, facing chronic deprivation.
There have been 780 Covid-related deaths in Bolton and in the week to May 16 there were 982 positive tests, 438 more than the previous week.
The town’s infection rate is now 384.6 per 100,000 residents, compared with the England average of 20.6 – with more than 90 per cent of those having the Indian variant, according to leaked analysis by public health officials.
Read more: Families who refuse to quarantine after trips to India are blamed for Covid surge in Bolton – mainly in overcrowded areas where ‘up to eight people live in two-bed homes’ (the fake ‘Indian variant’ is going to be used to trigger conflict with Indian people – divide and rule)