'Treat vaccinated Indians on par with those inoculated in EU states': India
India on Friday said it expects its vaccinated citizens to be treated on par with those inoculated in the European Union (EU) states, and the recognition of its digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates by the 27-member bloc on a reciprocal basis.
The remarks by external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi at a weekly news briefing came against the backdrop of 10 European countries, including eight EU members, recognising the Covishield vaccine for proof of Covid-19 vaccination for travel.
Referring to the EU Digital Covid Certificate or “green pass” introduced on July 1 for exempting vaccinated people from restrictions on movement, Bagchi said, “Our expectation is that Indians who have been vaccinated through our domestic vaccination programme would be treated at par with those vaccinated in the EU and the CoWIN vaccination certificate would be recognised by the EU on a reciprocal basis.”
Bagchi said India’s digital vaccination certificates can be authenticated on the CoWIN website. “We are in touch with EU member states in this regard for reciprocal acceptance. I understand that a number of EU countries have already taken positive steps in this direction,” he added.
A large number of Indian students who have gained admission to educational institutions in Europe, as well as professionals, are keen to travel so that they can join classes or resume work. Questions have arisen about their ability to travel as Covishield hasn’t been approved as yet by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Covaxin is yet to be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
EU member states, however, have the option of accepting vaccines that have been approved by the WHO or national authorities.
Currently, EU members Austria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain, Iceland and Switzerland, which aren’t in the bloc but are part of the Schengen visa regime, recognise Covishield for travel purposes.
Of the EU members, only Estonia recognises both Covishield and Covaxin, the two main jabs used for India’s vaccination programme.
The Indian side has informed EU member states it will follow a policy of reciprocity in recognising Covid-19 vaccines for travel, and exempt EU nationals possessing the green pass from mandatory quarantine only if the bloc recognises Covishield and Covaxin.
Travel between India and Europe continues to be tightly restricted. For example, India is on the Netherlands’ list of “very high risk” areas from where travel is barred. Of the 10 European countries that recognise Covishield, India has an air bubble arrangement only with Germany, which has emerged as a key transit hub for Indian nationals.
In response to other questions at the briefing, Bagchi said the government is making all efforts to augment the availability of vaccines across the country through domestic production and imports. The status of imports of specific vaccines depends on the regulatory authorities, he added.
Bagchi also ruled out any immediate resumption of vaccine exports, saying, “Let me reiterate that currently, our priority remains on purposing domestic production to our domestic vaccination programme, which as you know, is progressing rapidly.”