As UK Vaccine Rules Irk India, Jaishankar Says Resolving Quarantine Issue in 'Mutual Interest'

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India on Tuesday pushed for early resolution of the Covid-19 quarantine issue in the United Kingdom in the “mutual interest” of both countries after Britain faced flak for refusal to recognise people jabbed in India as “fully vaccinated”.

“Pleased to meet new UK Foreign Secretary @trussliz. Discussed the progress of Roadmap 2030. Appreciated her contribution on the trade side. Exchanged views on developments in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific. Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar posted on Twitter.

A new travel advisory by the United Kingdom – which says people from India and a few other countries will be considered “unvaccinated” even after two doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield – and to undergo self-isolation for 10 days has renewed controversy over freedom of international travel during the pandemic, with many calling the move “racist” and “offensive”.

Earlier on Monday, the UK said it is engaging with India to explore how it could expand the recognition of the COVID-19 vaccine certification issued by Indian authorities. It added it is committed to opening up international travel again “as soon as is practicable”.

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Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he had cancelled multiple engagements because of the rules – which were announced by the UK government Friday and will come into effect on October 4 – and that it was “offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine”.

Jairam Ramesh, another Congress leader, called the rules “racist”.

“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 tweeted.

From October 4, the current traffic light system of red, amber and green countries based on levels of Covid-19 risk will be scrapped and replaced with one red list only, the UK government on Friday announced.

The scrapping of an amber list, which is what India is currently on, means reduced cost burden for travellers especially for the Indian diaspora vaccinated in the UK related to compulsory PCR tests. However, an expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in England does not include India, which means that Indians vaccinated with Covishield the Serum Institute of India produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would still be required to undergo a pre-departure PCR test and further tests on landing in the UK.

From October 4, travellers from 17 additional countries with eligible vaccines, including Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, will no longer need to take pre-departure PCR tests for travelling into England. “Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry, said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

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