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Saturday October 23, 2021

Out of the red

September 21, 2021

Pakistan should have been off the UK’s Covid-19 red list for travelers long ago. Finally the UK has announced that Pakistan will no longer be on that list. A prolonged inclusion of Pakistan on the red list created undue hurdles for passengers from Pakistan and despite a declining trend in Covid infections – both in Pakistan and the UK – the red list continued to bother many. Added to this nuisance was the requirement for a 10-day quarantine period for travelers from Pakistan and that included travelers with British passports too. A prohibitive cost of over two thousand pounds sterling for each adult was an extra burden. It was surprising that even if various tests for coronavirus had come negative for an adult, they were asked to remain in quarantine at a designated hotel.

There was much speculation about travel restrictions on visitors from Pakistan while the same red list did not apply to travelers from India which had much higher rates of infections and deaths. The main concern of the British government was about the data that Pakistan provided about its Covid-19 infections. The supposed lack of comprehensiveness provided a justification to the UK for Pakistan’s continued presence on the red list and resultant restrictions on travelers from this country. The same applied to Pakistan’s rate of vaccination which was considered inadequate by the British keeping in view Pakistan’s population. It was disappointing to see other countries move from the red to amber list. Even if this is not discrimination, at least it sounded so because it smacked of more political considerations rather than health ones.

While our concern regarding such discrimination is valid, we must of course not trivialise the importance of reliability of data in health matters. There is no denying the fact that Pakistan handled the pandemic in a much better way than many other countries did, and any data loopholes must be filled. Coronavirus management is not simply about the numbers we maintain; equally – or perhaps more – significant is the database management that must be beyond any question. That said, Covid politics must be put aside by Western countries which form the so-called world community and try to exclude countries such as China and Russia despite their scientific advancement. Chinese and Russian vaccines have proved to be of high quality with convincing results; but a majority of Western countries are still not granting them approval for travel purposes. Health and sports are two fields that must not be mixed with politics at any level.