In letter to P.M. Boris Johnson, co-chairs of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan note Islamabad has responded well to pandemic and urge its shift to amber list
Members of Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan have written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to remove Pakistan from the country’s travel red list.
Signed by the group’s co-chairs—Yasmin Qureshi and Rehman Chishti—as well as several other lawmakers, the letter was released online by Qureshi, who noted that a “key focus for myself and other M.P.s recently has been Pakistan’s travel status” with respect to the U.K.
“As you will know, Pakistan was placed on the red list for travel from April 9, 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,” reads the letter.
It notes that the lawmakers have already written to various U.K. government departments, regretting that none have as yet provided any “real answers to our very serious questions.” Similarly, it said, they had tabled parliamentary questions on the issue that had not been answered and had engaged with media to highlight the issue. Pointing to London’s decision of Aug. 5 to move several of Pakistan’s neighboring states to the amber list—which allows travelers to quarantine at home instead of at government-designated hotels—it noted that there was confusion over why Pakistan had not been included.
Initially, it noted, authorities claimed Pakistan had not provided COVID-19 data for June or July; its vaccination rates were lagging; and there was insufficient genomic sequencing to change its status. Upon further discussion, it said, it was found that this information had been shared.
“There has also been a great deal of confusion around the public health messaging regarding this decision,” read the letter, recalling that the Secretary of State for Transport had initially claimed it was based on data before changing its stance to link the status to vaccination rates and potential inaccuracies in reported figures.
“We have repeatedly asked for a clear reason for this decision, yet these interactions left us in a more confused state than beforehand—this is a very serious issue which is impacting a diaspora totaling over 1 million,” it said, stressing this was barring people from attending funerals; from attending university; and leaving families who couldn’t afford the hotel quarantine divided between countries.
Highlighting a letter by Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan in which he had detailed Pakistan’s vaccination strategy—achieving nearly 1 million daily inoculations of WHO-approved vaccines—and had clarified that limited genomic sequencing was underway, it said that Pakistan had, overall, “responded well to the pandemic, when compared with international partners.”
Calling on Johnson to reassess the U.K.’s position and move Pakistan to the amber list, the letter said: “It is clear that the U.K. 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.”
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the U.K., earlier this week, told media he was “optimistic” that the U.K. would move Islamabad to the amber list from Aug. 25, when its next travel advisory update is due. He also stressed that all necessary data had been shared with British authorities.