Pakistan’s chances to come out of the ‘Red list’ of countries people of whom have been barred from travelling to Britain due to coronavirus pandemic are “fifty, fifty”, it is learnt on Tuesday.
Pakistan has asked the British government “on and off the record” to remove Islamabad from the Red List as it meets the requirement, people familiar with the situation said.
The British government reviews travel restrictions every three weeks, with the last update having taken place on August 4. The next review of travel restrictions is expected to come on either August 25 or 26.
According to The News, a leading travel website reported that Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey are now “borderline candidates” for removal from the Red List. The website stated that infection rates have started coming down rapidly and on the face of it there is a decent chance that Pakistan could turn amber.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had raised the issue of travel restriction to his counterpart Boris Johnson which has caused problems to thousands of Pakistanis. Behind the scenes, several other players and factors are involved to get Pakistan off the Red List.
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the UK officials have made a beeline to get visas for Pakistan and it’s understood that Pakistan has issued over 300 visas only in the last 10 days and hundreds more are eager to obtain visas.
A high-ranking British official visited Pakistan last week and a top official is set to land in Islamabad this week to meet Pakistani officials about the Afghanistan situation. Pakistan has already raised the issue during the facilitation of evacuation efforts that Pakistan is under pressure from its own communities for removal from the Red List. Pakistan has conveyed to the UK that as compared to the data that featured in UK’s decision making last time, cases have fallen in all areas that are required; positivity and fatality rates have gone down and genome sequencing, which fell short of the requirement last time, has improved massively.
It’s understood that Pakistan authorities have lobbied the UK government hard in the last four weeks after uproar was caused following Britain’s decision to remove India from the Red List while keeping Pakistan on the ban list.
It is learnt that Pakistan didn’t share COVID-19 pandemic data for the month of July with British authorities and key information in other areas was missing too due to communication failure, but since the Pakistan government has worked towards ensuring that the data is sent to the UK on a regular basis.
Not only the Pakistan authorities have been sending the data directly but also Yasmin Qureshi MP, who is chair of All Pakistan Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, has been personally sending the data to the UK’s relevant authorities and maintaining communications and facilitating exchanges.
Meanwhile, the UK officials have said that they have been receiving the data from Pakistan on a regular basis in the last few weeks but the decision whether to keep Pakistan on the Red List or not will be made by the scientists at the Department of Health.
It is also learnt that “statistics are lower” in Pakistan but the UK health authorities have to decide whether these figures are “enough to meet and pass the test”. The final decision will be made either on Wednesday or Thursday.
Nothing can be predicted and the UK government has not given any indication but both sides discussed the rise in positivity cases in Sindh and some other parts of Pakistan.