- The government cannot wiggle out of its responsibility
National Security SAPM Moeed Yusuf has strongly denied that Pakistan has been ‘exporting’ the coronavirus, but he cannot deny that 30 passengers from Pakistan tested positive for the coronavirus at Heathrow Airport, London. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, he called on intending travellers to follow airline guidelines in order to avoid embarrassing the country. He has also claimed, rather grandly, that Pakistan has done remarkably in ensuring that departing travellers do so safely.
It seems Dr Yusuf has failed to grasp that his statements will impress no one. Departing travellers will need some sort of certification of a negative test, carried out by a laboratory with official approval. Leaving intending travellers to get the test done themselves is for the government to attempt to wriggle out of responsibility. Before the pressure comes from countries of destination, asking Pakistan to ensure that people departing from its shores are coronavirus-free, the government must take appropriate measures. A logical first step would be to ask the airlines what steps would meet their requirements. This would ensure that not only destination requirements are met, but also those of transit countries. It should be noted that the present problem includes Pakistani passengers being banned from the transit point of Dubai. It seems that government’s concentration on re-opening air travel is going to be stopped in its tracks, because the rest of the world does not share the government’s free-enterprise attitude towards public health.
Pakistan is used to dealing with such issues. It has only recently faced a requirement that departing travellers had been vaccinated against polio, which it had successfully met. Before that, it had administered requirements for yellow fever. However, files need to be dusted off, and plans to be taken out of the drawer into which they have been stuffed. These are tasks which can only be carried out by the government. There must be no more attempts to duck responsibility. Is there more disgrace to the country brought by private citizens using improper labs, or by its government being forced by other countries to follow safety norms?