India warns of reciprocal measures if UK does not address concerns on travel rules related to COVID-19 vaccination

astrazeneca, UK travel rules, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, covishield, vaccine

India will be within its rights to initiate reciprocal measures if the UK does not address concerns over the new travel rules relating to COVID-19 vaccine certification, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Tuesday describing the policy as “discriminatory”.

His comments came hours after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar strongly took up the issue of Covishield-vaccinated travellers being required to quarantine in the UK with newly-appointed British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss at a meeting in New York.

Official sources said India will take reciprocal measures against travellers from the UK if its concerns are not addressed by October 4 when the new rules will come into effect.

According to new rules, Indian travellers who received both doses of the Covishield vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10 days.

At a media briefing, Shringla said he has been told that certain “assurances” were being given by the UK that the issue will be resolved.

“We have also offered to some of the partner countries the option of mutual recognition of vaccination certificates. But these are reciprocal measures. We have to see how it goes. But if we do not get satisfaction we would be within our rights to impose reciprocal measures,” Shringla said.

He was replying to a question on the matter.

“The basic issue is that here is a vaccine, Covishield, which is a licensed product of the UK company, manufactured in India of which we have supplied five million doses to the UK at the request of the government of the UK.

“We understand that this is being used under the national health system, and, therefore, non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminatory policy and does impact those of our citizens travelling to the UK,” Shringla said.

The external affairs minister raised the issue strongly with his British counterpart and called for resolving it at the earliest to mutual satisfaction.

From October 4, the current “traffic light system” of red, amber, green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk will be replaced by one red list of countries.

The scrapping of an amber list, which is what India is currently on, means reduced PCR test cost burden only for some travellers.

The expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in the UK does not include India.

It means Indians vaccinated with Covishield, the Serum Institute of India produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, would be required to undergo compulsory PCR tests as well as self-isolation.

The new rules have drawn sharp criticism in India with the opposition Congress urging the government to immediately intervene and ensure that there is no inconvenience faced by Indian travellers.

Former union ministers and Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor have slammed the UK’s travel policy, with Ramesh saying it “smacks of racism”.

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