Indians travelling to United Kingdom, currently have to undergo PCR tests and 10 days of quarantine inspite of being fully-vaccinated. Even though Covishield is listed in its globally eligible vaccine formulations, yet UK did not relax the restrictions on Indians. The Indian government retaliated by imposing similar restrictions on travellers arriving from UK to India - PCR tests and 10 days of quarantine. In a recent news report, UK has said that it is working to increase the recognition of the India-made Covishield vaccination.
A British High Commission spokesperson stated that, "We are continuing to engage with the Government of India on technical cooperation to expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India".
The spokesperson also mentioned that the UK has adopted a “phased approach” to resolve the issues related to vaccine certification recognition, quarantine and travel policies. India is in top priority among those countries.
Why is it crucial to ease the travel restrictions of Indians travelling to UK?
Every year, thousands of tourists, students and business people visit the UK from India. The travel restrictions will curb the movement which will affect both the countries. As per Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, about 62,500 visas have been issued for students by June end 2021. This is a surge of approximately 30% in comparison to that of 2020. Hence it is crucial to enable smooth and seamless travel between the 2 nations.
What triggered the travel restrictions by India?
In the last week of September 2021, the United Kingdom made an announcement on the travel and quarantine rules. India was not considered in the list of 18 approved countries; thereby mandating the need to undergo the PCR tests and the 10 days quarantine on arrival at home or the destination address. Though AstraZeneca Covishield is among the qualified list of vaccines, yet India was left out irrespective of the travellers being fully vaccinated.
A concern was raised by the UK on the vaccination certificate issued buy India. In response to that, the National Health Authority (NHA) updated the certification to ensure it meets the compliance and specification needs of WHO’s Digital Documentation of Covid-19 Certificates guidelines. Yet the restrictions have not been eased.
How did India reciprocate on UK's travel restrictions?
India has earlier provided a warning to UK that the government will introduce a reciprocal action if India's Covishield vaccine is not considered as legal. Since there was not further action or consideration, the Indian government had declared that starting from 4th October, 2021, all UK nationals arriving to India from UK have to undergo the mandatory PCR tests and 10 days quarantine on arrival.
Current stance of UK on the travel and vaccine restrictions
As per the British high commission in India, the United Kingdom is negotiating and discussing with India for recognising the vaccine certificates. Detailed technical discussions are ongoing with the builders of the CoWIN app and the NHS app to resolve the certificate crisis. The Commission spokesperson has emphasised on UK's eagerness to open travel for India and to welcome the Indian travellers, business associates and the students.
Final decisions are still awaited as many Indian and UK travellers are eagerly looking for the relaxations on the movement between the 2 countries. Till then we need to wait and watch.
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