British MPs write letter to PM Boris Johnson, urging Pakistan's removal from red list

British MPs say Pakistan's status on the red list for travel is a "key focus" for them

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Yasmin Qureshi MP (L) and Rehman Chisti (R). Photos via Twitter.
Yasmin Qureshi MP (L) and Rehman Chisti (R). Photos via Twitter.

A group of British Members of Parliament (MPs) have written a letter to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson, asking him to remove Pakistan from the red list of countries as soon as possible.

Yasmin Qureshi, Member of Parliament for Bolton South East, took to Twitter and wrote that Pakistan's status on the red list for travel is a "key focus" for her as well as other MPs in Britain.

The lawmaker shared a copy of the letter, which was co-signed by Rehman Chisti, Member of Parliament for Gillingham & Rainham, in which PM Boris Johnson was asked to remove Pakistan from the red list and be moved to the amber list as soon as possible.

"As you will know, Pakistan was placed on the red list for travel from 9 April 2021, alongside a range of other countries including Kenya, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Since then, we have collectively tried to ascertain why exactly Pakistan was placed on the red list, what the methodology was behind this decision, and what it must do to be taken off the red list," the letter said. 

It further stated the actions the MPs took to sort the issue out, including writing letters to various UK government departments, including the Department for Transport, the Department for Health and Social Care, and the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office.

"All of whom have provided no real answers to our very serious questions," the letter said. 

It said that when other countries in Asia were moved to the amber list, announced on 5 August 2021, many of the MPs wrote to the government and tried to understand the rationale behind the decision to move some countries, but not Pakistan. 

Initial discussions with British government officials suggested that Pakistan had not provided any data for June or July, that their vaccination rates were not as high as required, and that there was not enough genome sequencing underway to warrant a change in status.

"Upon discussion with the Pakistan High Commissioner and officials, it was clear that up to date data for June and July had been provided to the JCVI, the FCDO, and the UK government more generally. It has subsequently been confirmed by various parties that the British authorities were aware of this information," the letter stated.

Citing Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, it also provided statistical data about Pakistan's COVID-19 management.

“Vaccinations remain a core pillar of Pakistan's strategy. With improving vaccine supplies, the daily vaccination rate has exceeded one million doses. About 29.7 million people have been vaccinated of which 10.6 million are fully vaccinated and 19.1 million are partially vaccinated. The aim is to vaccinate 100 million persons by the end of 2021," it said.

It added that the vaccination rates in Pakistan are good, with a specific focus on WHO-approved vaccines, and that genomic sequencing is underway, albeit in a more limited capacity than in the UK.

"Pakistan has, overall, responded well to the pandemic, when compared with international partners. It has implemented PCR and lateral flow testing for travellers as well as a quarantine system," said the letter.

"It is clear that the UK government is concerned about the risks from travel, but what is perhaps most clear is that Pakistan is mitigating travel risks and is well aware of the risk of new variants and an increase in cases," it added.

At the end of the letter, the MPs urged PM Johnson to "reassess its position and move Pakistan onto the amber list as soon as possible."