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UK concerned over Covid testing mechanism in Pakistan: Fawad

The Covid-19 testing mechanism in Pakistan is keeping the country in the United Kingdom’s travel red list, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been told so by his UK counterpart Boris Johnson.

Johnson has called for talks pertaining to the matter after
PM Imran reached out to him for the removal of Pakistan from the list,
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Fawad said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr
Faisal Sultan will have a detailed discussion with the UK’s chief medical

“The government is trying its best to get Pakistan removed
from the red list,” said Fawad. “Many Pakistani families are stuck in both the
countries and therefore it’s a matter of importance for us.”

In its latest travel review released Thursday, the UK
announced that Pakistan will remain on the red list. The decision will cost
many Pakistani families millions of rupees.

Failure to meet requirements pertaining to genomic
surveillance capability, transmission risk and variants of concern has kept
Pakistan on the red list, despite hopes by the country’s government that it
will be moved to the amber list.

PM Imran also nudged the UK government earlier in this
regard. However, it seems the effort was fruitless and, consequently, many Pakistan
will stay separated from their UK families.

The UK government moved seven countries from the amber list
to the green list and two countries from the amber list to the red list. It did
not remove any nation from the red list. India and several other countries
remain on the amber list.

After the latest review, from 4 am on Monday, Canada,
Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Switzerland, and the Azores were
added to the green list, as the risk that travel from these countries poses to
public health in the UK is low.

While Thailand and Montenegro were added to the red list
from the same date, reflecting the increased case rates in these countries and
the higher risk that travel from these countries poses to UK public health.

“The high rates combined with lower levels of published
genomic surveillance in Thailand and Montenegro than other countries mean that
an outbreak of a new variant or existing variants of concern (VOC) or variants
under investigation (VUI) cannot be easily identified before it is imported and
seeded across the UK,” the review read.

“Passengers arriving in the UK from these red list
destinations will need to isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine facility
and follow the necessary testing requirements.

“The data for all countries will be kept under review and
the government will not hesitate to take action should the data show that
countries’ risk ratings have changed.”

What it means to be on the red list

For Pakistani families being on the UK’s travel red list
means the loss of millions of Rupees. People from the red list countries have
to follow certain protocols such as a mandatory 10-day stay at designated
hotels. It incurs hundreds of pounds per person in hotel costs and test fees.
For large families, the sum runs into millions of rupees.

The UK travel review reads people from the red list countries need to do the following:

Before travelling to England they need to

  • take a COVID-19 test – they must take the test in the 3 days before they travel to England
  • book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests
  • complete a passenger locator form

When they arrive in England, they must quarantine in a
managed hotel, including 2 COVID-19 tests.

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