Aylesbury MP responds to concerns of town's Pakistani community over travel red list

Aylesbury's Pakistani community were stunned by the decision to move other countries onto the amber list, while keeping Pakistan in the red category.

Monday, 9th August 2021, 11:58 am
Updated Monday, 9th August 2021, 12:00 pm

Aylesbury MP Rob Butler contacted the Foreign Office (FCDO) for clarification over the decision to keep Pakistan on the travel red list.

Aylesbury's Pakistani community is in uproar at Thursday's (August 5) decision to keep the country on the red list.

Former Aylesbury Mayor, Councillor Raj Khan BEM called the decision to continue to deny travel from the UK to Pakistan 'absolutely shambolic' when speaking to the Bucks Herald.

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Aylesbury MP Rob Butler

A particular point of contention for the Pakistani community is the fact that India was one of four countries moved onto the amber list.

India neighbours Pakistan and currently has a higher infection rate, and like Pakistan, has a small amount of its population fully vaccinated.

The latest data at the time of the Government's update showed Pakistan's infection rate at 14 cases per 100,000 people, whilst India's rate was 20 per 100,000.

Mr Butler said: “I entirely understand the concerns of the local Pakistani community over the decision to keep Pakistan on the red list, and have raised them directly with ministers in the

Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"In response, ministers have explained that the decision is not as simple as the raw number of cases in Pakistan. What is much more important is the rate of increase in cases, the positivity rate, and the amount of testing for different variants: all of which give cause for concern.”

The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) provided to ministers advised that the epidemiological situation in Pakistan was deteriorating based on the findings of its fifth round of public health assessments, a spokesperson for Mr Butler said.

While the current infection rate for Pakistan is lower than the countries moved to the amber list the government advises that the rate doubled in just one week. Positivity increased from 6.1%to 8.0% in the same time period.

The Government states that it believes testing is very low in Pakistan and this was another factor in its decision.

Vaccination figures is another reason the Government has given with just 2% of Pakistan fully vaccinated against Covid.

Out of the four countries moved to the amber list India was the next lowest at 8%. However, when this was raised to Councillor Khan he advised that given the size of India having just 8% of the country jabbed twice is likely just as detrimental as Pakistan's low figures.

Mr Butler added: “The Pakistani community in Aylesbury have made huge sacrifices during the pandemic, and made a massive contribution to helping locally with food distribution and even a vaccine hub at the mosque.

"So I appreciate that this is extremely disappointing news for those who have not seen loved ones and friends for a very long time.

“But the combination of a rapidly deteriorating epidemiological situation in Pakistan, low testing rates and lack of genomic surveillance means that there is a high risk that an

outbreak of a new or existing variant would not be identified before being imported to the UK. None of us want that.

“I understand that the UK is helping the authorities in Pakistan with their work on genomic surveillance and will be watching the broad situation there extremely carefully.

“I would like to reassure everyone in Aylesbury’s Pakistani community that I am urging ministers to change the rules as soon as it is safe enough to do so.”