The latest changes in the UK government’s Covid-19-related travel restrictions have upset the Indian side as travellers who have got both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be considered “unvaccinated” and will have to undergo 10 days of quarantine.

The new rules, which were unveiled on Friday and will become effective from October 4, were described by the UK as an attempt to change the current “red, amber, green traffic light system” to a single red list of countries and “simplified travel measures” for arrivals from around the world.

Under these rules, only people who have got both shots of a double-dose vaccine such as Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or the single shot Janssen vaccine “under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas” will be considered fully vaccinated.

The rules also consider who have received jabs under public health bodies in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei,Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan as fully vaccinated.

Effectively, this means even Indians who have received both doses of Covishield, the local version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and one of the two main vaccines being used for the domestic immunisation programme, will be considered unvaccinated. The Indian side is especially upset as the issue of vaccination-related travel restrictions has been repeatedly taken up with the UK at the highest levels, including by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and external affairs minister S Jaishankar, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.

During his visit to the UK in July, foreign secretary Shringla called for early removal of travel restrictions for Indians and the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates during his discussions with British interlocutors. He pointed out that France had cleared travellers from India without quarantine if they were fully vaccinated and had a negative test. “The ministry of external affairs has been working on solving the issue,” a senior central government functionary said on condition of anonymity.

The European Union (EU) has left it to individual member states to decide on acceptance of Indian vaccination certificates and more than a dozen members have recognised Covishield.

The people cited above said the change in UK rules will mostly affect students, who are now returning in large numbers to British universities or travelling to Britain to start new courses. The change will mean they will have to pay extra for more tests and to quarantine.

The Indian side has also been insisting on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates in negotiations with other countries. The people said New Delhi will be in a better position to press this issue once travel to India also starts opening up.

Another person aware of the matter said New Delhi will be in a better position to press this issue once travel to India also starts opening up. Apart from the a digital vaccination certificate, India recently launched a new application programming interface (API) to easily verify whether a person is vaccinated against Covid-19 or not using the CoWIN platform.

Besides India, several other countries are upset by the change in the UK’s travel restrictions, including countries in Africa, South America and West Asia that have been using the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that are also used in Britain.

In August, the UK had eased travel restrictions on India, and at that time, travellers from the country were no longer needed to undergo 10-day mandatory hotel quarantine. The move benefited thousands of Indians, mainly students, professionals and those who have family in the UK, who had been effectively barred from travelling to Britain after the second wave of infections in India.

With inputs by Rhythma Kaul

World News


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