UK approves Covishield after India’s protest, but vaccine certification issue still hangs fire

Our Bureaus New Delhi/Mumbai | Updated on September 23, 2021

India not yet in list of countries whose vaccination UK recognises fully

The UK has updated its travel guidelines by including Serum Institute’s Covishield, a version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, in the list of authorised jabs after India warned of reciprocal action if it didn’t revoke its ‘discriminatory policy’ .

Yet, this may not immediately result in the relaxation of Covid-related restrictions for travellers from India as the British government said it is working on recognition of vaccine certification in India. “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,” said Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, emphasising that Covishield was not a problem.

Indian travellers to the UK must follow the ‘non-vaccinated rules’ set out in the UK Government website, a British High Commission statement pointed out indicating that this may be the norm till the vaccination certification issue was sorted out.

Still in limbo

While Serum Institute did not comment on the development, an industry representative said there was no clarity on how this would pan out, as Covishield was on the approved list, though confusion remains on the status of Indian travellers.

It has to be sorted out at a diplomatic level, the representative added, indicating there was little companies could do. Per the ‘non-vaccinated rule’ on the UK Government website, before travelling to England, a person must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and book and pay for day-2 and day-8 tests that are to be done post arrival. After arriving in England, the person must quarantine at home or in the place she is staying for 10 days and take the Covid-19 tests on or before second day and on or after eight days.

Last Friday, the UK government came up with a revised travel advisory where it said that from October 4 the rules for international travel to England will change from the red, amber, green light system to a single red list of countries and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world. The rules for travel from countries and territories not on the red list will depend on the traveller’s vaccination status, it said.

India was irked by the fact that Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute, was not on the list of approved vaccines, despite the fact that it was a licensed product of a British company. The Ministry of External Affairs called the action “discriminatory’’ and threatened reciprocal action.

On Wednesday, the UK government rectified the situation by expanding the list of approved vaccines and including Covishield in it.

However, it did not include India in the list of 19 countries whose vaccinations it recognises fully.

Published on September 22, 2021

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