Pakistan has been placed on the red list for the low COVID testing and monitoring in Pakistan. The list is formultaed by UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre(JBC) which assissts ministerial decisions by producing public health risk assessments.
In the letter, Britain’s Health Minister Lord James Nicholas Bethell and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation from the Department of Health and Social Care explained that the only reason to place pakistan on that list was the lower testing and sequencing. In the last seven days Pakistan’s testing rate was recorded at 1.8 per 1000. It implies that the infections in Pakistan are much higher than recorded.
“The national testing rate varies considerably across regions. For example, in Punjab — Pakistan’s most densely populated region — with the highest number of active cases, testing is below Pakistan’s average rate and is the second-lowest in the country,” Lord Bethell wrote to Yasmin Qureshi MP, the Chair of All Parties Parliamentary Group on Pakistan.
The limited sequencing data makes it impossible for the analysts to guage the extent of the the outbreak. It prevents them from figuring out whether Pakistan is dealing with the known variant such as Delta or if a novel cluster has evolved. All these factors make the travel of inbound passengers from Pakistan very high-risk for UK security.
Lord Bethell stated that he had met with Pakistan’s High Commissioner and was working with Pakistan’s government to improve technical engagement in Pakistan’s public health sector.
“This will enable us to better understand the strategies employed by Pakistan, their understanding of the pandemic and establish stable and long-term access to the outcomes of Pakistan’s in-country genomic surveillance and sequencing.”
“ We are supporting their response to the pandemic, including through COVAX and through the development of Pakistan’s genomic sequencing capability. Through the New Variant Assessment Platform (NVAP) programme Pakistan will be able to draw on UK expertise and support to detect, analyse, and respond quickly to new, and potentially more dangerous, variants of COVID-19.”
Lord Bethell said the UK government understood the hurdles it will create for the British Pakistanis and was aware that Pakistan’s government will take all the measures to prevent the import of COVID to UK.
The minister further explained the decision was based on the recommendations made by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) which produces public health risk assessments.
“Ministers will take the JBC risk assessments into account alongside wider public health factors to inform watchlists and make their decisions. As with all our coronavirus measures, we keep these lists under constant review and our priority remains to protect the health of the UK public.”
Th JBC analyses a number of qualitative and quantitative indicators to assess the country. The main three criteria include COVID-19 transmission risk, variant transmission risk and genomic surveillance capability.