Working with India, says UK on recognising Covishield vaccine certificate

The British high commission statement came after the UK’s travel rules provoked consternation in India since travellers who have received both doses of Covishield, the local version of AstraZeneca, will be considered unvaccinated.
According to new UK travel rules, travellers from India who have got both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield will have to undergo 10 days of quarantine. (Bloomberg)
According to new UK travel rules, travellers from India who have got both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield will have to undergo 10 days of quarantine. (Bloomberg)
Updated on Sep 20, 2021 10:40 PM IST
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ByRezaul H Laskar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

NEW DELHI: The UK said on Monday it is working with India on the recognition of Covid-19 vaccine certification issued by Indian authorities, following criticism of new British travel rules that considered travellers who have received even the AstraZeneca jab, Covishield, to be unvaccinated.

The latest changes in the UK government’s travel restrictions have upset the Indian side as travellers who have got both doses of Covishield would have to undergo 10 days of quarantine.

A British high commission spokesperson said: “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.”

The UK is committed to opening up international travel “as soon as is practicable” and the new rules were a “further step to enable people to travel more freely again, in a safe and sustainable way, while protecting public health”.

The new rules, which were unveiled by Britain on Friday and become effective from October 4, were described by the UK as an effort to change the current “red, amber, green traffic light system” to a single red list of countries and “simplified travel measures” for arrivals from around the world.

However, under the rules, only people who have got both shots of a double dose vaccine such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna or the single shot Janssen vaccine “under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas” will be considered fully vaccinated.

People who have received jabs under public health bodies in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan will also be considered fully vaccinated.

The rules provoked consternation in India as people who have received both doses of Covishield, the local version of AstraZeneca and one of the two main jabs used for the domestic immunisation programme, would be considered unvaccinated.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that the UK has constantly reviewed visa rules throughout the pandemic to keep borders open while gradually and safely restarting travel. The UK will continue to review scientific evidence on other vaccines and keep health measures under regular review, the people said.

Visa applications for all categories from Indian nationals continue to be processed and people do not need to be vaccinated to travel to the UK, they added.

Regardless of an Indian national’s vaccination status, the person must take a pre-departure test and a Covid-19 test on or before day two of the visit, and on or after day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days. Travellers can opt to shorten their home quarantine to around five days under the UK’s “Test to Release” service.

The Indian side was especially upset by the new rules as vaccination-related travel restrictions had been repeatedly taken up with the UK at the highest levels, including by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

Shringla, during his visit to the UK in July, called for theearly removal of travel restrictions for Indians and the mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates. He had pointed out that France was clearing travellers from India without quarantine if they were fully vaccinated and had a negative test.

The new UK rules are expected to mostly affect students, who are now returning in large numbers to British universities. The change will mean they will have to pay extra for more tests and to quarantine.

India has been pushing for mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certificates in negotiations with countries around the world.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021