Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has slammed the British government for its new travel rules that would make 10-day institutional quarantine mandatory for Indians inoculated with both doses of Covishield vaccine, Oxford-AstraZeneca jab manufactured in India.
Urging the British to get “their act together”, Tharoor said the country cannot have it both ways. The Serum Institute of India (SII) is manufacturing the vaccines developed by Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca.
“Either you (UK) ask Serum Institute of India (SII) to make those vaccines and ship it to Britain or you say you don’t accept the vaccines. You can’t have it both ways,” the Thiruvananthapuram MP said.
Tharoor also accused the UK government of “double standards” and said he had pulled out of a debate at Cambridge university and from launch events for the UK edition of his book as he had no time to “sit in quarantine for 10 days”.
“Double standards applied by the UK are impossible to understand. I personally don’t have time to go to a country and sit in quarantine for 10 days. So I’ve cancelled my trip,” he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The UK government’s new Covid-19 travel rules, which will come into force from October 4, will consider Indians inoculated with both doses of the Covishield vaccine to be unvaccinated and require them to undergo institutional quarantine for 10 days.
The rules have provoked severe backlash against the British government as Covishield is one of the two major vaccines used in India’s domestic vaccination programme. Moreover, the UK expanded its vaccine approval norms to include the likes of Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and 14 other countries but failed to recognise the vaccine passport issued by India. India has taken up the issue with Britain at the highest diplomatic levels.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has also hit out at the UK government’s new rules and accused it of indulging in racism. Serum has supplied Covishield doses even to the UK, but now the country is refusing to recognise the same vaccine. “Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune, has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism,” Ramesh tweeted on Monday.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla both have repeatedly asked the UK to remove the travel restrictions placed on Indians and called for mutual recognition of vaccine passports.
The UK government has declared that it will consider the Covid-19 vaccine jabs administered by the 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 to be valid.
However, vaccinated individuals travelling from India would have to take a pre-departure test and a Covid-19 test on or before day two of the visit, and on or after day eight, in addition to quarantining for 10 days on arrival.
Following severe backlash, the UK government has said it was working with India “to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India”.
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