LONDON: Pakistan was not removed from the UK’s red list in a travel update on Thursday, and its nationals will continue to be required to undergo a costly 10-day hotel quarantine on arrival in Britain.
Pakistan and India were placed on the UK red list in April due to a rising number of COVID-19 delta variant cases in the region. An update issued by the British government on August 8 moved India, together with Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to the “amber list” that only mandates vaccinations and virus tests before and after arrival in the UK. Britain justified keeping Pakistan on the red list over a “deteriorating epidemiological situation.”
“Disappointed with decision to retain Pakistan on Red List,” the Pakistan high commission in London said. “Entails continuing hardship for thousands of Pakistanis and British Pakistanis.”
“Completely disappointed by the Govt’s decision to keep Pakistan on the red list,” Afzal Khan, Labour Party MP for Manchester Gorton, said in a tweet.
Mr Khan tweeted a letter written to him by MP Robert Courts, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, who responded to Mr Khan’s letter about the government decision to keep Pakistan on the red list during the last travel review.
Earlier this month, Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK Moazzam Ahmed Khan had expressed optimism about Pakistan’s change of status to amber, which would end the hotel quarantine requirement. Mr Khan had said data was being shared with the UK government, and added that he took up Pakistan’s case with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Pakistani high commissioner to the UK, Moazzam Ahmad Khan also said earlier this month that he had already spoken to the British prime minister who had assured him his government was already “looking into” the red list decision.
According to him, the two key reservations of the UK government were insufficient genomic surveillance of new variants in Pakistan, and low testing. “We feel the sample size of our daily tests is adequate to make informed decisions,” the ambassador said, adding that Pakistan also had a low number of daily deaths from the coronavirus.
“Those [daily deaths] cannot be hidden, and the demand for oxygen and ventilators too cannot be concealed,” he added. “So, their decision should not be based on one thing, but after considering all factors. We feel when assessing Pakistan’s situation, all elements were not considered.”
On Wednesday, the high commissioner shared Pakistan’s latest data with Lord Bethel, parliamentary under secretary of state at the department of health and social care. Despite the lobbying and optimism about Pakistan shifting to the amber list, Thursday’s update showed no change for Pakistan’s status.
In a letter to British Health Secretary Sajid Javid earlier this month, Pakistani health chief Dr. Faisal Sultan highlighted discrepancies in the UK’s decision and proposed a new approach:
“Numbers alone, without context may be deceptive,” Dr. Sultan wrote to Javid in the letter dated August 10, as he shared pandemic data showing that Pakistan had the lowest daily cases, daily deaths, test positivity and total mortality in the whole region, as well as the highest vaccination rate.
To address the situation, he suggested “interventions focused directly on traveller, rather than on other metrics.” “I would like to therefore propose a three-pronged approach which may include valid proof of having received a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine, a PCR test (72 hours prior to departure) and a rapid antigen test at the airport, pre-departure,” Sultan wrote, suggesting discussing the issue with UK experts.
He added that Pakistan’s coronavirus response has already been recognized as a “good example” by the UN and WHO.
“Pakistan’s COVID effort has been recognized by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President-elect Volkan Bozkir who suggested it was a ‘good example’ for the world to follow and by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who thought that Pakistan was among countries from whom the international community should learn how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.