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Thursday Aug 26 2021
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UK retains Pakistan on travel red list

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

  • Seven countries, including, Canada, Denmark, and Switzerland, will move into the green list on August 30.
  • Thailand and Montenegro, on the other hand, will be added to the red list.
  • Passengers arriving in the UK from red list destinations "will need to isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine facility".
  • Misery of thousands continues; diplomatic offensive fails. 


Pakistan continues to remain in the red list, as the UK government announced its latest travel review on Thursday.

It remains in the list for failing to meet the requirements on genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk, and variants of concern. 

Pakistan was hopeful it will be moved to the amber list in the latest review, with government officials – including PM Imran Khan – urging the UK government to move the country to the amber travel list.

But it seems the diplomatic offensive failed and the misery of thousands, who are separated from family, will continue.

According to the latest update, seven countries, namely, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Switzerland, and the Azores will move into the green list starting 4am on Monday, August 30.

Thailand and Montenegro, on the other hand, will be added to the red list at the same time, "reflecting the increased case rates in these countries and the higher risk that travel from these countries poses to UK public health", said the notice.

"The high rates combined with lower levels of published genomic surveillance in Thailand and Montenegro than other countries mean that an outbreak of a new variant or existing variants of concern (VOC) or variants under investigation (VUI) cannot be easily identified before it is imported and seeded across the UK," it added.

According to the UK government, passengers arriving in the UK from red list destinations "will need to isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine facility and follow the necessary testing requirements".

"The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action should the data show that countries’ risk ratings have changed," it said.


What are the traffic light system rules? (Courtesy inews.co.uk)

The system is based on the following criteria:

  • The percentage of a country’s population that have been vaccinated
  • The rate of infection
  • Prevalence of variants of concern
  • The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing

There are currently four traffic light categories.

Green: arrivals must take a pre-departure test three days before returning to the UK, as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their return. They do not have to quarantine unless their test is positive, and there is no requirement for additional tests.

Green watchlist: The same rules apply as for the green list, but countries on this list are “at risk of moving from green to amber”, potentially without much warning.

Amber: all travellers are required to take a pre-departure test three days before returning as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their return. Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must also self-isolate for 10 days and take a second PCR test on day eight of their return. An optional day-five test can be taken, with a negative result allowing travellers to “test out” of quarantine, but the day-eight test must still be taken regardless of the result.

Red: arrivals must undertake a 10-day quarantine in a managed hotel at a cost of £2,285 per solo adult (with more charges for additional people sharing a room) as well as pre-departure testing, and mandatory PCR testing on or before day two and on or after day eight.


Pakistan had hoped to be removed from the UK government's travel ban red list alongside Turkey, which also continues to remain on the red list.

Three factors determine placement

The responsible department said that three major factors determine the final decision on whether to remove the country from the list or retain it.

In an interview with Geo.tv, a spokesman of the department of health — which maintains the traffic light system of the countries —  said that genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk, and variants of concern are the key factors in making the final decision.

When asked to comment on the progress Pakistan had made to come out of the red list, a department of health spokesperson said: “Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority — public health — and traffic light allocations are based on a range of factors, including genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk, and variants of concern.”

The spokesman explained that the traffic light system categorises countries based on risk to protect public health and the vaccine rollout from variants of COVID-19 and the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) produces risk assessments of countries and territories.

The spokesman added that decisions on red, amber or green list assignment and associated border measures are taken by ministers, who take into account the JBC risk assessments, alongside wider public health factors.

The UK government says it uses a range of data sources to inform decisions, including from GISAID, the World Health Organisation (WHO), official reports from host government/administration websites, UK mandatory testing data and information provided by host governments/administrations. 

Many countries and territories have limited genomic sequencing and variant assessment or do not publish their data and, therefore, surveillance for variants of concern is challenging, the government maintains.

Geo.tv also spoke to three MPs who have been in touch with the UK government in recent weeks, arguing that Pakistan should be moved from the red list.

One MP said that Pakistan has made major progress but the "recent rise in death rates and infection rates is concerning."

The second MP said that he was confident that Pakistan will come out of the red list. The third MP said the "UK government is aware that Pakistan has no variants of concern other than Delta, which has now spread widely across the UK and is being dealt with."

In a recent letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javed, a group of MPs wrote that keeping Pakistan on the red list was causing grievous suffering to so many people within the diaspora who have been unable to see family members, particularly parents who are seriously ill, as well as spouses and children.