HIGHLIGHTS:

  • United Kingdom released its revised international travel advisory, where it approved multiple COVID -19 vaccines including Serum Institute’s Covishield
  • Travellers from India who are inoculated with Covishield, will have to quarantine on their arrival in Britain
  • UK raises issues on India’s COVID-19 vaccination certificate

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom released its revised international travel advisory, where it approved multiple COVID -19 vaccines including Serum Institute’s Covishield. Nevertheless, travellers from India who are inoculated with Covishield, will have to quarantine on their arrival in Britain.

The guidelines laid down in the revised advisory asserts that Britain has no problems with the composition of Covishield vaccine, but with the COVID-19 vaccine certification given by India through its CoWIN app. The latest guidelines have stirred a controversy in India, with several lawmakers slamming the ‘discriminatory policy’ and with diplomats warning of retaliation on an official level.

According to the renewed advisory, the UK will consider a traveller as ‘fully vaccinated’ if they are administered with any of these vaccines namely Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Morderna, or the Janssen shot. Further, it will also recognize different formulations of aforementioned vaccines like Covishield (AstraZeneca), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) or Takeda (Moderna).

Referring to the guidelines, there are 18 nations including Denmark, Canada and Antigua who are eligible for the UK’s ‘green list’. Travellers vaccinated in these countries can fly to Britain without undergoing the mandatory quarantine protocol. However, a traveller from India will have to follow a 10 days quarantine even if they are administered with Covishield due to the country’s vaccination certificate from the CoWIN app.

Diplomats from the Indian side termed the issue as a ‘discriminatory policy’. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla remarked that if the UK did not amend its policy on Covishield, India could impose ‘reciprocal measures’. Yet, the new advisory issued by Britain following the statement, did not make it easier for Indians flying to the UK, irrespective of identifying Covishield as an approved vaccine.

The British high commissioner, Alex Ellis said, “We are Clear Covishield is not a problem. We have been having detailed technical discussion regarding certification, with the builders of the CoWIN app and the NHS app.” He added, “We listen very carefully to what the Indian government says but ministers have to take decisions and the have been clear that Covishield is not an issue.”

National Health Authority CEO RS Sharma stating that he is not aware of any concerns being raised by the UK regarding the COVID-19 vaccination certificate in India informed, “The British high commissioner met me on September 2 and wanted to know the details about the CoWIN system.” External affairs minister too informed about a meeting with the UK’s foreign secretary Elizabeth Truss, where he urged for early resolution of the quarantine issue in mutual interest.

Meanwhile, during the global COVID Summit chaired by US president Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted that international travel should be made easier through mutual recognition of vaccine certificates, as several countries are adopting different sets of rules to allow foreigners to enter their country in view of the pandemic.