Tuesday November 28, 2023

Dr Faisal, UK's top medic to discuss coronavirus testing as Pakistan's eyes exit from red list

"Pakistan will [continue to] help those who wish to leave Afghanistan," Fawad Chaudhry says in post-cabinet meeting briefing

By Web Desk
August 31, 2021
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chauhdry addressing a post-cabinet media briefing in Islamabad, on August 31, 2021. — YouTube/HumNewsLive
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chauhdry addressing a post-cabinet media briefing in Islamabad, on August 31, 2021. — YouTube/HumNewsLive

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan will speak at length this week about Pakistan's coronavirus testing mechanism with UK's chief medical scientist, as Pakistan eyes exiting Britain's travel red list. 

This was announced by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Tuesday during his post-cabinet meeting media briefing.

Chaudhry said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had spoken to his British counterpart Boris Johnson, who believed that deliberations should be held over the testing mechanism in Pakistan.

"We are putting in all our efforts to have Pakistan moved out of UK's red list, as it affects numerous Pakistani families," the information minister said.

Pakistan was retained on the red list in the latest review of the country's travel ban, despite a diplomatic offensive by several top government officials.

The British government said that it had decided to keep Pakistan on the travel ban red list because the true number of COVID-19 cases are likely much higher than reported across the country, a leaked letter written by Britain's health minister revealed.

US troops presence in Pakistan

The information minister said he hopes for peace to prevail in Afghanistan, hours after the last United States troops left the war-torn country, leaving the Taliban in charge.

The Taliban celebrated their total return to power on Tuesday with gunfire and diplomacy. US’ longest military conflict drew to a close on Monday night when its forces abandoned Kabul’s airport, where it had overseen a frenzied airlift that saw more than 123,000 people flee life under the Taliban.

Taliban fighters then quickly swept into the airport and fired weapons into the sky across the city in jubilation — an astonishing return after US forces invaded in 2001 and toppled them for supporting Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the information minister wished for the "sad tales" of the Afghan people to come to an end, as he promised on behalf of Pakistan that it would do all it can to provide relief to them.

Speaking about evacuations, he said 10,302 people belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were brought to Pakistan and 9,032 of them have departed to their respective countries.

"As many as 1,229 people who came from Afghanistan are present in Pakistan and they will leave within a day or two," the information minister said, adding that of the 1,229, 545 are Afghan nationals, while 684 are foreigners.

The information minister added that of the 155 evacuees from the United States, only 42 are still present in Pakistan.

Ten thousand people have made their way to Pakistan via the Chaman border, the information minister said, adding that "all American troops will soon leave Pakistan".

"Pakistan will [continue to] help those who wish to leave Afghanistan," he said.

Booster shots

The information minister said the federal cabinet wants to make the COVID-19 booster shot, which currently costs Rs1,270, free for labourers.

The cabinet has decided to start vaccinating people aged 17 and below in stages, said Chaudhry, while praising the National Command and Control Centre for Pakistan's response to the virus and its roll-out of vaccines.

Dr Ishrat Hussain resigns

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain has decided to resign from his post due to personal reasons, Chaudhry said.

The former adviser became a part of the cabinet with the status of a federal minister since August 2018 and had established an Institutional Reforms Cell (IRC) at the PM Office.

'Opposition would even strike a deal with the devil'

Moving on to local political matters, the information minister said the Opposition "will strike a deal with the devil if they have to", as he slammed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and PPP.

The information minister reiterated that the government was ready to talk about electoral reforms with the Opposition — after the PDM rejected them.

"We want to speak about electoral reforms with the Opposition, but they aren't interested [...] Opposition just wants to criticise [the government]," Chaudhry said.