UK lifts its quarantine rule for Indian flyers
The UK said on Thursday it will begin accepting India’s vaccine certificates from October 11, ending a row that had resulted in British nationals facing a 10-day mandatory quarantine on arrival even if they are fully vaccinated.
New British guidelines on approved Covid-19 vaccines and the requisite proof of vaccination said India would be added to a “list of countries and territories with approved proof of vaccination [from] 4 am [on] Monday 11 October”.
British high commissioner Alex Ellis tweeted there would be “no quarantine” for Indian travellers who were fully vaccinated with Covishield or any other UK-approved vaccine, and thanked the Indian government for its close cooperation on the issue over the past month.
“From Monday... a traveller from India to the UK, double jabbed with Covishield or another vaccine recognised by the UK regulator, does not have to quarantine. It will be easier and cheaper to enter the UK. This is great news,” Ellis said in a video statement.
The move was in line with the comprehensive strategic partnership agreed to by the prime ministers of the two countries in May, he said. Britain has issued thousands of visas to students, business travellers and tourists in recent months, Ellis added, while calling for further opening up of travel between the two sides.
“Some of the noise about this issue over the last few weeks just shows how keen people are to travel to the UK and I’m delighted by that. So, let’s now go further. Let’s open up more flights between the two countries, let’s get British tourists able to come in to India... let’s facilitate business travellers who are trying to come in to India with e-visas,” Ellis said.
Indians arriving in the UK before October 11 must follow the “rules for people who are not fully vaccinated”, according to the new guidelines. “If you arrive after that, you can use a vaccine certificate to prove your vaccination status,” a government notification said.
Earlier in the day, India had said it was hopeful of finding a solution to the vaccine certification row. “Discussions are ongoing and we remain hopeful that some solution may emerge,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a regular news briefing.
He described Britain’s travel restrictions on Indian nationals with valid vaccine certificates as “clearly discriminatory” and said measures imposed by the UK from October 4 were “not right”. He added, “We took up the issue with the UK at various levels but without success.”
Once the British travel rules came into force on October 4, India imposed “reciprocal measures” that apply only to UK nationals arriving in India from Britain.
The measures kicked in as the UK government didn’t make a call on accepting India’s vaccine certification more than 10 days after the conclusion of technical discussions between the two sides.
The row erupted because Indians travelling to the UK had to undergo 10-day home quarantine under new rules. The British government’s failure to recognise Covishield, an Indian version of the Britain’s AstraZeneca jab, had also given rise to allegations of vaccine racism.
The UK subsequently included Covishield in its list of approved vaccines.
As part of an update of its travel rules, the UK also removed 47 countries and territories from its “red list”. From October 11, the red list will be reduced to seven countries, and proof of vaccination will be recognised from 37 new countries and territories, including India, Brazil, Ghana, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey.
Eligible travellers vaccinated in these 37 countries and territories will “be treated the same as returning fully vaccinated UK residents, so long as they have not visited a red list country or territory in the 10 days before arriving in England”, an official statement said.