UK’s new vax rule sparks anger in India

Our Bureau New Delhi/ Mumbai | Updated on September 21, 2021

Several Indians readying to travel to Britain are seeing red over the recent changes in the UK government’s Covid-19 related travel protocol.

The new rules effectively categorise Indian travellers as “unvaccinated”, even if they have taken both doses of Covishield, the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine made by Serum Institute of India, Pune. The move has evoked strong reactions across the board in India, including from senior Congress leaders and MPs, who called out the new rule as “racist” and “offensive”.

Adding to the “bizarre” situation was the underlying irony, that SII and Mumbai-based Wockhardt make and supply these vaccines to the UK, the latter infact, from its plant in Wrexham, UK.

Wockhardt has an alliance with the UK government up to August 2022 to make 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Neither company commented on the development.

It is not immediately clear if the Indian government has raised the issue with its UK counterpart, though given the uproar, the expectation is that a redress could be underway.

Red list

The UK’s new rules mandate ten days of quarantine for fully vaccinated Indians along with travellers from South America, Africa, the UAE, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand and Russia. The new rules kick in from October 4.

Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor slammed the rule as smacking of “racism”, especially with respect to India. “Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and the Serum Institute has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism,” tweeted Jairam Ramesh.

Shashi Tharoor termed the restrictions as “offensive” and added, “Because of this I have pulled out of a debate at the Cambridge Union and out of launch events for the UK edition of my book The Battle Of Belonging (published there as The Struggle For India’s Soul),” he said.

Covishield woes

SII’s Covishield is not new to controversy in Europe. In March, SII found itself in a crossfire, after its supplies were delayed. Only half the contracted 10 million doses had been shipped, the UK media had said.

Earlier this year, the European regulator had said Covishield needed a marketing authorisation as well. But AZ then stepped up saying SII’s production facility was an alternate site of the AstraZeneca vaccine Vaxzevria.

Published on September 20, 2021

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