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The United Kingdom on Wednesday, 22 September, had updated its travel guidelines to include Serum Institute of India (SII)-manufactured Covishield in its list of recognised vaccines.
While this was good news, India did not feature in a list of countries mentioned by the UK where vaccination from the relevant public health body would count as an individual being vaccinated.
This officially means that Indians who have received Covishield will still be considered 'unvaccinated' and will have to undergo a '10-day self-isolation'. The UK government did not give any official reason for the same, however, several reports indicated that there was an issue with recognising the Co-WIN vaccine certificates issued by India.
Needless, the decision taken by the United Kingdom government generated several reactions from different spectrums in India. We bring you some of them.
International Travel Should be Made Easier Through Mutual Recognition of Vaccine Certificates: PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day visit to the US, on Wednesday, 22 September, spoke about the need to focus on addressing the pandemic's economic effects. "To that end, international travel should be made easier, through mutual recognition of vaccine certificates," he said, while addressing the 'Global Summit to End COVID-19'.
Stating that "India has always seen humanity as one family", PM Modi also said, "India’s pharmaceutical industry has produced cost-effective diagnostic kits, drugs, medical devices and PPE kits. These are providing affordable options to many developing countries."
No Issues on CoWin With Certification: RS Sharma
National Health Authority CEO RS Sharma on Wednesday, 22 September, said that the certificate system is WHO-compliant.
"There are no issues on CoWin with certification... system is entirely WHO compliant. We continue to have discussions with International Civil Aviation Organization. The UK High Commissioner visited me on September 2. They wanted to understand the system... technical aspects," Dr Sharma told NDTV.
"A resource has been allocated and two further conversations have happened with their team. These were technical-level conversations," he explained.
UK Needs To Get Its Act Together: Shashi Tharoor
Earlier, on Tuesday, 21 September, UK had said that Indians who have received both doses of Covishield will be considered 'unvaccinated' and will have to undergo a '10-day self-isolation'.
Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor, who was scheduled to go the UK to launch his new book and participate in a debate at the Cambrdige Union, slammed UK's vaccine rules and asked them to get their act together.
"It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine. The Brits are reviewing!" he had said on Twitter.
“The double standards applied by UK are impossible to understand. I personally don't have time to go to a country and sit in quarantine for 10 days. So I have cancelled my trip. It's time we all stood up and said to the British - 'Get your act together'. Either you ask Serum Institute of India (SII) to make those vaccines and ship it to Britain or you say you don't accept the vaccines. You can't have it both ways”, he was quoted as saying by ANI.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, too, took to social media and accused the UK of racism. "Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism," he had tweeted.
UK Government's Decision Discriminatory: Harsh Vardhan Shringla
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Tuesday, 21 September, called UK government's decision "discriminatory" and said India was within its "right to take reciprocal measures"
"The non-recogition of Covishield is a discriminating policy and impacts our citizens travelling to the UK. The External Affairs Minister has raised the issue strongly with the new UK foreign secretary. I am told that certain assurances have been given that this issue will be resolved," Mr Shringla said at a press conference in New Delhi.
Earlier, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar had also discussed the matter with the British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
New Guidelines To Come Into Effect on 4 October
UK's new guidelines come into effect from 4 October, in which Indians would also need to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test and another upon arrival in the country.
The UK High Commission on Tuesday, 21 September, had asserted that their government is "working with India to expand recognition of vaccine certification", which indicated that there was an issue with recognising the Co-WIN vaccine certificates issued by India.
"We've been having detailed technical discussions regarding certification, with the builders of CoWIN app and NHS app, about both apps. They’re happening at a rapid pace, to ensure that both countries mutually recognise the vaccine certificates issued by each other," British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
On August 8, the UK had moved India from the 'Red List' to the ‘Amber List’, which opened the British “Visit visas” to Indian travellers “irrespective of vaccination status”.
(With inputs from ANI and NDTV)
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