‘Within our rights to impose reciprocal measures’: Shringla on UK vaccine rule
Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday the UK has assured that it will work on a rule requiring Indians visiting there to quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated. “The non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminating policy and impacts our citizens travelling to the UK. The EAM [external affairs minister S Jaishankar] has raised the issue strongly with the new UK foreign secretary,” Shringla said in a press conference. “I am told that certain assurances have been given that this issue would be resolved,” he added.
Shringla was referring to Jaishankar’s meeting with his British counterpart Liz Truss in New York, where both are attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). “Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,” Jaishankar tweeted after he met Truss.
The meeting between Jaishankar and Truss came as the UK announced new Covid-related travel restrictions that sparked sharp criticism in India with many Indians calling the decision discriminatory.
Shringla also warned the UK that its citizens would face reciprocal measures over its new Covid-19 rules. "The basic issue is that, here's 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," Vardhan Shringla told reporters. "But if we don't get satisfaction we would be within our rights to impose reciprocal measures."
According to new rules, Indian travellers who have received both doses of the Covishield will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10 days. Covishield has been developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute of India has not been recognised by Britain under new rules despite being identical to the doses given to millions of Britons.
The UK has said the current "traffic light system" of red, amber, green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk will be replaced by one red list of countries from October 4. India is currently on the amber list and the expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in the UK does not include India. The new UK rules are expected to mostly affect students, who will be going back to British universities, and will have to pay extra for more tests and to quarantine.
The British high commission in New Delhi has said the UK is working with India on ways to resolve the issue of the Covid-19 vaccine certification issued by Indian authorities. "We are engaging with the Government of India to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India," a British high commission spokesperson said. "The UK is committed to opening up international travel again as soon as is practicable and this announcement is a further step to enable people to travel more freely again, in a safe and sustainable way, while protecting public health," the spokesperson added.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said on Monday he cancelled a planned book tour of Britain in protest against the rules. "It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine," he said. Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the decision "smacks of racism".