‘Red list’ discrepancies

Despite Pakistan’s dipping infection graph, the UK believes that travellers from Pakistan should be quarantined

August 13, 2021

Pakistan’s rejoinder to the UK on retaining it on the ‘Red List’ of travel advisory is worth studying. Despite Pakistan’s better pandemic dealing and a dipping infection graph, as compared to other countries in the region, the UK believes that travellers from Pakistan should be quarantined and placed in higher alert category. Dr Faisal Sultan, the PM’s special assistant on Heath, has done some great homework as he penned down his response to the authorities in London, urging them to focus on individual travellers’ recognised vaccination record rather than relying on generalised metrics. He underscored the aspect that there are ‘obvious discrepancies’ in British evaluation of pandemic, and that needs to be realised in good faith.

Pakistan has proposed a three-pronged approach, including a valid proof of vaccination as per international standards, a prior-travel PCR test, and a rapid antigen test at the airport. This is a universal norm to establish non-infectious status; and Britain should apply the same to travellers from Pakistan. UK’s analysis as it attributes its decision to “low testing rates and limited genomic surveillance in Pakistan” is unwarranted and discriminatory. Likewise, its traffic light system barometer to shun Pakistani visitors is scientifically questionable. It fails to take into account the percentage of infections and deaths per million in Pakistan, which is lowest in the region; whereas vaccination per 100 people is highest. Last but not least, Pakistan’s fight against the pandemic has been lauded by the UN General Assembly President and the WHO Director General.

It is hoped British Health Secretary Sajid Javid will take a sagacious note of Pakistan’s plea, and reconsider the decision on merit. Britain is second-home to millions of Pakistanis and also constitutes a preferential transit corridor to the Atlantic. In these testing times of economic downslide, governments should encourage travel and trade provided individuals are immune from the contagious menace. No point in being bogged down over fears of new derivatives of infection. The Economist recently ranked Pakistan among the third best performing countries for handling the pandemic with a thrilling score of 87.8/100. Britain should take a cue from it.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2021.

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