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India slams UK’s new travel rules as ‘discriminatory,’ warns of retaliation


Travelers at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021.

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India slammed the U.K.’s decision to exclude vaccinated Indian travelers from its new travel guidelines, calling it “discriminatory” and warning of reciprocal measures.

The British government will next month allow fully vaccinated travelers from a list of countries to skip quarantine upon arrival — but Indians who are fully vaccinated will still need to be quarantined.

The U.K. last week eased travel restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals from 17 countries and territories, including Japan and Singapore, saying they would not have to stay in quarantine for 10 days after arriving in England.

From Oct. 4, travelers from those destinations would have to show that they received a full course of one of the Covid vaccines currently approved in the U.K., at least two weeks prior to their arrival. These vaccines have been approved by the FDA: Oxford/AstraZeneca (Pfizer-BioNTech), Moderna, Janssen, and Moderna.

India’s main vaccine is the one from Oxford University and British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca — but it is manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India under the name Covishield. It has been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization.

It has been. If we fail to get satisfactory, it would be in our right to impose reciprocal actions.

Harsh V Shringla

India’s foreign secretary

“The basic issue is that here is a vaccine, Covishield, which is a licensed product of a U.K. company, manufactured in India,” India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla said Tuesday at a press briefing. “We have supplied 5 million doses to the U.K., at the request of the government of the U.K. We understand that this has been used in their national health system.”

He said that non-recognition is discriminatory and has an impact on citizens who travel to the U.K.

The new regulations will require Indian tourists to be quarantined upon arrival in England. They must also undergo three rounds testing regardless of whether or not they have been immunized. Indian nationals often visit the U.K. to travel for business, study, leisure or visiting family.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, raised the issue “strongly” with U.K. Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, according to Shringla.

Shringla said that he was told “certain assurances” that the issue would be solved.

Jaishankar said that he had met Truss in New York and “urged for a quick resolution of the quarantine problem in mutual interests.”

Indian opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor said Due to the quarantine orders, he pulled his participation in a University of Cambridge debate engagement.

He said that it was offensive for fully vaccinated Indians being asked to be quarantined.

Another lawmaker, Jairam Ramesh, said the decision “smacks of racism.”

“We will have to see how it goes, but if we don’t get satisfaction, we would be within our rights to impose reciprocal measures,” Shringla added, without elaborating what some of those measures could be.

Government data showed India has so far administered more than 825 million vaccine doses in one of the world’s largest inoculation drives — roughly 15% of the country’s eligible population has received the two doses required to be considered fully vaccinated, according to online publication Our World In Data.

The country’s home-made vaccine from Bharat Biotech, called Covaxin, has yet to be approved by the World Health Organization. This will undoubtedly complicate many Indian citizens’ international travel plans.