Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 20:45 [IST]
Last Update: Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 15:07 [IST]
The UK has changed its Covid-19 travel rules, placing Indians who require to travel to this country in jeopardy. The UK’s new entry rules that treat would-be visitors from India as “unvaccinated" even if they have received both doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, given here as Covishield, has sparked outrage. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor withdrew from a Cambridge Union debate and his party colleague Jairam Ramesh went to the extent of saying that it smacked of “racism". Both Congress leaders quote-tweeted an analyst who had posted on the UK government confirming the rules for travellers. It mentions that if a traveller has been vaccinated in Africa, South America, or countries like UAE, India, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand and Russia, then the UK considers his or her unvaccinated.
While it has relaxed the rules for those vaccinated with two doses Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the same version of the vaccine being manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute of India has been kept out of the list. Which means, these rules, which go into effect from 4 October, will require those vaccinated here to undergo 10 days of quarantine. It does not matter if we had the same Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, at least in terms of formulation, that millions of Britons had. Nor even the fact that a few batches of its local production by Serum Institute of India were exported for use in Britain.
The UK currently has a system that designates countries in ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ list. If a person has been in a ‘red list’ country in the 10 days before arrival in the UK, he or she has to quarantine for 10 days in a quarantine hotel; and take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 or after day 8 of quarantining. Even fully vaccinated people have to follow these rules: The penalty is up to £10,000 for violation of quarantine rules, and £5,000 for arriving without a prior negative test. The prior test is necessary for fully vaccinated travellers, too — but they are exempt from quarantine if they have taken the full course of an ‘authorised’ vaccine. ‘Authorised’ includes two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine (traveller must have the final dose at least 14 days before arrival in England), or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Any vaccine that has World Health Organization (WHO) approval must be held on par for border-crossing purposes and, unless a scientific argument is made for violating this basic principle, London stands exposed to the charge of discrimination. While ‘vaccine passports’ are needed for global Covid containment, no doubt, the arbitrary rejection by any country of WHO-approved vaccines administered elsewhere is scandalous.