The British government has said that “low testing rate and the lack of genomic surveillance in Pakistan” are causes of concern for them, as it gets ready to review the Red List of countries on Wednesday (tonight).
According to Geo News, both Pakistan and UK shared on Tuesday details of the Red List review, containing progress made and the continuing issues around the COVID-19 response of the Pakistani authorities.
The British government’s decision to keep Pakistan on the Red List has caused friction between the two countries to the extent that Pakistan refused to allow a chartered flight to land at Islamabad on September 7.
Twenty-five Pakistani deportees were on the flight.
Diplomatic sources confirmed that Pakistan informed the Home Office that “it would not accept the flight as a token of protest over its action to keep the country continuously on the Red List.”
The Pakistan High Commission denied the flight cancellation was linked with the Red List. However, a source in the UK government linked the flight cancellation – which cost the UK over £100,000 – with the Red List.
Meanwhile, in another development on Tuesday, Minister for Aviation, Maritime and Security Robert Courts defended the UK’s decision to keep Pakistan on the Red List while lifting the ban from India.
In a letter to Afzal Khan MP, Courts said safeguarding public health is the UK’s priority and the “combination of a deteriorating epidemiological situation, combined with low testing rates and lack of genomic surveillance in Pakistan is a concern.”
The minister wrote that the traffic light system categorises all countries based on risk. “The situation in India has stabilized and we are no longer seeing a large growth in cases,” claimed the minister.
UK government sources have said that the number of countries on the Red List is set to be significantly reduced under new travel rules as the Red List designation policy is expected to be reserved for countries where there are concerns over specific, dangerous variants of concern, specifically the prevalence of the beta variant first found in South Africa.
Pakistan’s prime minister and foreign minister have called on the British government to remove Pakistan from the Red List and the UK foreign secretary has said he wants Pakistan to come off the Red List but added that the final decision will be made by the scientists.