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Thursday, October 28, 2021

COVID-19: UK ‘looking into’ removing Pakistan from travel red list, country’s high commissioner says

Pakistan’s top diplomat in the UK has said Boris Johnson assured him the government is “looking into” the prospect of removing the South Asian country from the travel red list.

Moazzam Ahmad Khan, Pakistan‘s high commissioner to the UK, said he had raised concerns directly with the prime minister when they met at Sandhurst military academy on Friday.

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

Pakistan has been on the COVID-19 red list since April, meaning almost all travel from the country to the UK is banned.

British and Irish nationals and those who have residence rights in the UK can return, but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 11 days at a cost of more than £2,000.

Pakistan was kept on the red list when the last travel review was carried out earlier this month, but neighbouring India was moved back to the amber category.

This has sparked criticism of the travel system, with a number of MPs calling for an explanation from the government.

Mr Khan said he had raised the matter with the PM last week, in a bid to get Pakistan removed from the red list when the travel rules are next reviewed on 26 August.

COVID-19 Traffic Light: What you should do when you return to England from these countries

Main restrictions:

  • Red list: Hotel-quarantine for 10 days & pre-departure test, plus PCR test on day 2 and 8.
  • Amber list: Home-quarantine for 10 days & pre-departure test, plus PCR test on day 2 and 8. “Test to release” option on day 5. Different rules apply for fully vaccinated people arriving from EU countries and US.
  • Green list: Pre-departure test & PCR test on or before day 2.

You do not need to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine on arrival in England if you are travelling within the Common Travel Area

SOURCE: Department for Transport. • Countries in the Common Travel Area: the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Travel restrictions may differ in Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland. Regions in some nations may have been put into a different category than the rest of the country. Data updated at 21:01 04 August 2021

“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, in quotes carried by the Dawn newspaper.

“This is not 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 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’.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives ahead of the Sovereign's Parade at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Camberley, which marks the completion of 44 weeks of training for the officer cadets. Picture date: Friday August 6, 2021.
Image:Boris Johnson at Sandhurst on Friday, when he met with Moazzam Ahmad Khan

The high commissioner said authorities in the UK had expressed concerns about a lack of genomic surveillance of new COVID variants in Pakistan and low levels of testing.

But Mr Khan said Islamabad’s view was that the UK was not looking at the whole picture.

“We feel when assessing Pakistan’s situation, all elements were not considered,” he said.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Our international travel policy is guided by one overwhelming priority – public health – and traffic light allocations are based on a range of factors including genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk and variants of concern.”

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