India slaps tit-for-tat travel restrictions on vaccinated passengers from UK – RFI English

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British nationals arriving in the country have been subjected to Covid-19 curbs, in response to the same measures imposed on Indians visiting the UK. 

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UK nationals arriving in India will have to undergo 10-day mandatory quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated under reciprocal measures enforced from Monday, marking an escalation in the vaccine certification row between the two countries. 

India gives it back 

Airport authorities sent 162 of 539 people who arrived in three flights from the country to mandatory home quarantine after making them sign affidavits. 

Last week, the UK announced new rules which mandate that travellers from 17 countries arriving there do not have to self-isolate if they are fully vaccinated. India was not included in that list. 

The new travel-related regulations, beginning October 4, predictably invoked outrage in India, directed particularly at the shockingly discriminatory rules surrounding the recognition of the vaccination status of incoming travellers. 

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla spoke about the issue in a media briefing. 

“Here is a vaccine, Covishield, which is a licensed product of a UK company manufactured in India, of which we have supplied five million doses to the UK at the request of the government of the UK. We understand that this has been used in their national health system,” said Shringla.  

Following India’s strong criticism over the UK’s refusal to recognise Covishield, authorities finally included the vaccine in its updated international travel advisory. 

However, Indian travellers vaccinated with two doses of Covishield would still have to undergo 10 days of quarantine in the UK notwithstanding the amendment. Officials clarified saying the inclusion of the vaccine would not make much of a difference.  

In retaliation, India imposed its reciprocal measures on all British travellers — irrespective of vaccination status — requiring the same level of RT- PCR tests and 10-day quarantine at declared destination. 

The UK’s new system covers over 50 countries, including the US and European Union (EU) member-nations plus 18 others such as Canada, Japan and the UAE.  

Travellers from these countries can now travel to England without needing to complete a pre-departure test, a day 8 test or enter a 10-day self-isolation period. They require just a single PCR test on the second day after arrival in the UK. 

“It is not about the vaccine but UK is questioning India’s vaccine certification. CoWin is a good app to use and therefore let us address the problem with science,” virologist Shahid Jameel told RFI. 

Discriminatory, says India

Many were angry by what they saw as a racist rule, particularly as the jab most Indians have received, Covishield, is a locally developed version of the same vaccine developed by British-headquartered firm AstraZeneca. 

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is made under two trade names — Vaxzervria and Covishield. It is the same product made at different locations. Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India in Pune and is the main vaccine in India’s vaccination drive. 

Of over 920 million doses delivered in India, Covishield has contributed to about 790 million (or 88 %) doses. 

This is not the first time that India has had to press its case for seeking recognition of Covishield. In July, after much diplomatic back-channel manoeuvrings, EU member states recognized Covishield as a valid vaccine including Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and The Netherlands. 

India reportedly took issue with the European Union’s plans to institute a “green pass” from July, warning that India would introduce a “reciprocal policy” only allowing ease of travel for those European countries that recognise Indian vaccines. 

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