India protests new UK’s vaccine related rules

Prime Minister Boris Johnson about Covid
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

A new travel advisory by the United Kingdom – which says people from India and a few other countries will be considered “unvaccinated” even after two doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield, globally as Vaxzervria, has renewed controversy over freedom of international travel during the pandemic.

The new rules, which were announced on September 17 and will become effective from October 4, were described by the UK as an attempt to change the current “red, amber, green traffic light system” to a ‘single red list’ of countries in a bid to “simplify travel measures”. India is currently on that list and has not yet been moved to the expanded ‘green’ list – countries whose vaccines are recognised by the UK. Starting October 4, therefore, passengers not vaccinated under “approved programs in the UK, Europe or US” must self-quarantine for 10 days, as well as pay for two Covid tests. UK has given their nod to those with Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Moderna or the single shot Janssen vaccines. Vaccinated passengers other than theses vaccines can pay for an early test to be released from quarantine. These rules exclude countries – such as Australia, Bahrain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Korea – where the AstraZeneca vaccine (which is produced and sold in India as Covishield) is in use. The new system is expected to stay in place for at least a year, new agency PTI reported, with the next review only scheduled for early 2022.

Covishield already has EUA, or emergency use approval, status from the World Health Organization. The UK government’s decision comes despite over a dozen European nations, including France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, having approved India-made Covishield. Fully vaccinated (with Covishield) individuals do not need to return a negative Covid test to enter these countries. Meanwhile, New Delhi would invoke the “reciprocity principle” if the UK did not review its decision. A note verbale has been sent to the British High Commission, saying British citizens too would be put in mandatory 10-day quarantine, the sources said.