Moazzam Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, expressed optimism on Tuesday that Pakistan will be removed from the British government’s red list in the next travel update on August 26.
Mr. Khan detailed the mission’s interaction with British authorities on their decision to keep travel from Pakistan limited in a briefing to media here and said officials here should re-examine data from Pakistan taking all factors into consideration.
He also brushed off rumors that the two countries were having trouble communicating on the Covid-19 problem.
“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 a 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 inadequate genomic monitoring of novel variations and low testing are two of the major concerns expressed by British officials about Pakistan. He went on to say that the absence of data was not an issue highlighted by UK officials.
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 that the UK government’s primary goal was to prevent infected travelers from entering the country, particularly a novel strain. He believed that this objective might be accomplished with PCR and antigen testing.
“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.”