LONDON: Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Moazzam Ahmad Khan on Tuesday said he is optimistic that the British government will remove Pakistan from its red list in the upcoming travel update on August 26.
In a briefing to journalists here, Mr Khan outlined the mission’s engagement with British authorities on their decision to keep travel from Pakistan restricted, and said officials here should re-examine data from Pakistan taking all elements into account.
He also dismissed reports of a communication gap between the two countries on the Covid-19 issue.
“We feel the system they [British authorities] have adopted to assess Pakistan does not present an accurate picture of our Covid-19 situation, and this needs to be corrected,” he said.
“This is not criticism, but it is important to share our point of view. There is no communication gap, we are constantly in touch with them. In fact, I had an opportunity to speak to Prime Minister [Boris] Johnson and brought it to his attention that keeping Pakistan on the red list has left both people in Pakistan and the diaspora frustrated and disappointed. He said ‘we are looking into it’.”
Mr Khan said that two of the key reservations communicated by British authorities regarding Pakistan are insufficient genomic surveillance of new variants, and low testing. He added that lack of data was not a concern raised by UK authorities.
The high commissioner said: “Perhaps comparatively this [lower testing] may be the case, but we feel the sample size of our daily tests is adequate to make informed decisions.”
He said that alongside daily cases data, the British authorities have been requested to look at daily deaths. “Those cannot be hidden, and the demand for oxygen and ventilators too cannot be concealed. So their decision should not be based on one thing, but after considering all factors. We feel when assessing Pakistan’s situation, all elements were not considered.”
Mr Khan said the UK government’s main aim was to prevent entry of infected passengers, especially the entry of a new variant, into the UK. He felt that through PCR and antigen tests, this goal could be achieved.
“They are concerned about new variants [coming into the UK] and say our genomic surveillance is not adequate. Of course, there may be room for more work, but our data gives us a clear picture. And our assessment shows that the variant of concern in Pakistan is not Beta, but mainly the UK and then Delta variant.”
He praised Pakistani authorities’ efforts to control Covid-19, and said the work done to contain the disease in Pakistan was “exemplary”. “We have fared better than stronger countries, some of which are on the green or amber list.”
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2021