After the row over UK's travel rules and exclusion of India out of the 18 countries on an approved vaccinations list inspite of approval to Covishield in updated international travel, the British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, has talks are on with the builders of the CoWin app over vaccine certificates.
“We are clear that Covishield is not a problem. The UK is open to travel, and we’re already seeing a lot of people going from India to the UK," he said. Ellis said, “We have been having detailed technical discussions regarding certification, with the builders of the CoWIN app and the NHS app, about both apps. They’re happening at a rapid pace, to ensure that both countries mutually recognise the vaccine certificates issued by each other."
The UK government has said that COVID-19 vaccine certification from all countries must meet a "minimum criteria" and that it is working with India on a "phased approach" to its international travel norms.
"As part of our recently expanded inbound vaccination policy, we recognise the following vaccines Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen (J&J), for the purposes of international travel. This now includes the formulations AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda," a UK government spokesperson said.
Following much confusion over this process, UK government sources said on Wednesday night that additions or changes to the approved country listings are being kept under "regular consideration", but there was no further clarity on the required criteria for approving a country's vaccine certification.
"Over 62,500 student visas have been issued in the year ending June 2021, which is an increase of almost 30% as compared to the previous year. We want to make the process of travelling as easy as possible," the UK High Commissioner to India said.
An official said that as per the rules, travellers who are not fully vaccinated, or vaccinated in a country such as India currently not on the UK government's recognised list, must take a pre-departure test, pay for day two and day eight PCR tests after arrival in England and self-isolate for 10 days, with an option to "test to release" after five days following a negative PCR test.
As per the original rules, Indians vaccinated with the the Serum Institute of India produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine were being considered 'unvaccinated' in the UK. Thus, upon entry, they would have to undergo relevant restrictions and quarantine.
After the Indian government warned of ‘reciprocal steps’ and the Indian diaspora raised a hue and cry, the UK has revised its travel advisory which now says Covishield is an approved vaccine. But, here comes the sting, double-vaccinated Indians still need to quarantine because of "vaccination certification issues".
Despite the inclusion of Covishield, Indian travellers are not exempt from the quarantine rules under the UK's new international travel norms that will come into force from October 4, with the British officials in New Delhi maintaining that the main issue is vaccine certification and not the vaccine and that both India and the UK are holding talks to mutually resolve the matter.
Responding to the new sticking point, a top Indian health official told a TV channel there is no issue with the vaccine certificate. Certification after Covid jabs is a centralised national system managed through the CoWin app and portal. The system is also entirely WHO (World Health Organisation) compliant, it is pointed out.
From October 4, England's traffic light system of red, amber and green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk is to be officially scrapped. However, despite Covishield now being recognised within the UK's eligible vaccine formulations, it would not offer any advantage to Covishield-vaccinated Indian travellers planning a UK visit.
With PTI inputs
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