- Genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk, and variants of concern will be the key factors in making the final decision.
- Pakistani officials are hopeful that the country will be moved to the amber list.
- Decisions on red, amber or green list assignment and associated border measures are taken by UK ministers.
As Pakistan hopes to be removed from the UK government’s travel ban red list alongside Turkey, the responsible department has said that three major factors will determine the final decision on whether to remove the country from the list or retain it.
In an interview with Geo.tv, a spokesman of the department of health — which maintains the traffic light system of the countries — said that genomic surveillance capability, transmission risk, and variants of concern will be the key factors in making the final decision.
Pakistani officials are hopeful that the country will be moved to the amber list and Pakistani government officials – including PM Imran Khan – have urged the UK government to move the country to the amber travel list.
When asked to comment on the progress Pakistan had made to come out of the red list, a department of health 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.”
The spokesman explained that the traffic light system categorises countries based on risk to protect public health and the vaccine rollout from variants of COVID-19 and the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) produces risk assessments of countries and territories.
The spokesman added that decisions on red, amber or green list assignment and associated border measures are taken by ministers, who take into account the JBC risk assessments, alongside wider public health factors.
The UK government says it uses a range of data sources to inform decisions, including from GISAID, the World Health Organisation (WHO), official reports from host government/administration websites, UK mandatory testing data and information provided by host governments/administrations.
Many countries and territories have limited genomic sequencing and variant assessment or do not publish their data and, therefore, surveillance for variants of concern is challenging, the government maintains.
Geo.tv also spoke to three MPs who have been in touch with the UK government in recent weeks, arguing that Pakistan should be moved from the red list.
One MP said that Pakistan has made major progress but the “recent rise in death rates and infection rates is concerning.”
The second MP said that he was confident that Pakistan will come out of the red list. The third MP said the “UK government is aware that Pakistan has no variants of concern other than Delta, which has now spread widely across the UK and is being dealt with.”
In a recent letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javed, a group of MPs wrote that keeping Pakistan on the red list was causing grievous suffering to so many people within the diaspora who have been unable to see family members, particularly parents who are seriously ill, as well as spouses and children.