Wednesday Jul 07 2021

UK govt does not know when Pakistan will come off red list

As many as 31,979 Pakistanis have travelled from the UK to Pakistan since January. Photo: Reuters

LONDON: The UK Government has told Pakistan that it has no idea, at this stage, as to when will it take the country off its travel red list.

According to both the UK and Pakistan government sources, the matter of Pakistan’s red list travel ban was discussed when Prime Minister Imran Khan held talks with the UK Minister for South Asia,  Lord Tariq Ahmed of Wimbledon, who visited Pakistan last week.

Per sources, the Pakistan government has been informed by the UK authorities that the travel ban is purely led by data and no other considerations as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and dozens of other countries are on the list as well. The UK government, per sources, will lift the travel restrictions only when scientists advise it to do so. 

According to a source, the ban could continue till the end of this year or a minimum of three months or so from now.

The government of Pakistan has conveyed to the UK government that Pakistan would like to come out of the list as soon as possible and the UK government should set a timeline for it. 

However, the UK government has announced that Pakistan will be among "the priority countries to benefit in the first phase of the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP)." Meanwhile, other countries to benefit from the first badge include Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Public Health England said that the platform aims to support countries to boost the capability and capacity to effectively identify, assess, and track new SARS-CoV-2 variants among their population in order to increase regional capacity. 

The NVAP was announced in January by the Department of Health and Social Care as a means for the UK to offer support to countries that lack the capability and capacity to effectively identify, assess, and track new SARS-CoV-2 variants among their population.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is a science superpower and it is right that we share our expertise in the global fight against COVID-19. I welcome this partnership with Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to identify, track, and respond to new COVID-19 variants and future health threats globally. No one is safe until we are all safe.”

On the other hand, Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “As we learn to live with COVID-19, we cannot underestimate the threat new variants could pose. 

This ground-breaking genomics work — building on the phenomenal genomics expertise in the UK — will allow our global partners to identify variant cases of COVID-19 and support us all to future-proof our way of life by preventing potential pandemics in the years ahead, said Javid.

“We are working arm-in-arm with nations to tackle this global pandemic, helping us all return to normality as quickly as possible by saving lives and protecting livelihoods.”