India’s reciprocal travel curbs on vaccinated UK nationals come in force

India’s reciprocal travel curbs on vaccinated UK nationals come in force
Courtesy: Reuters

UK nationals visiting India from October 4 will have to undergo mandatory quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in retaliation for UK curbs on Indian citizens.

The new rules follow the UK decision to require Indians vaccinated with AstraZeneca's Covishield to quarantine.

India mainly relies on the Covishield vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute, which is not recognised by Britain under new rules, despite being identical to the doses given to millions of Britons.

AstraZeneca is one of the key providers to Britain's vaccination programme, along with US peers Moderna and Pfizer.

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"India has decided to impose reciprocity on UK nationals arriving in India from the UK," a government source said.

The updated rules require British travellers, irrespective of their vaccination status, arriving in India to undertake Covid-19 RT-PCR test on arrival at airport and on day 8 after arrival at their own cost and will undergo mandatory quarantine at home or at the destination address for 10 days after arrival in India. All such passengers under isolation/quarantine shall be regularly monitored by State/District Health Authorities.

Government sources in New Delhi had last month warned of retaliation after Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said he had urged for an early resolution after a meeting with his British counterpart, Liz Truss, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Meanwhile, British government sources said that the countries that are included on the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine eligibility list for international travel are kept under “constant review”.

The UK is yet to officially respond to India’s reported plans to impose quarantine restrictions on vaccinated British travellers, seen as a retaliatory move against India not being recognised on a list of 18 vaccine-eligible countries. The move follows weeks of talks between officials from the British High Commission and the Ministry of Health in New Delhi to agree on a vaccine certification system, following India-made Covishield being added to the UK's list of approved vaccine formulations.

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Last month, the UK 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.

“Our top priority remains protecting public health, and reopening travel in a safe and sustainable way, which is why vaccine certification from all countries must meet the minimum criteria taking into account public health and wider considerations. We continue to work with international partners, including India, to roll out our phased approach,” a government spokesperson said at the time.

From this week, England's traffic light system of red, amber and green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk is officially scrapped. However, despite Covishield recognised within the UK’s eligible vaccine formulations, it would not offer any advantage to Covishield-vaccinated Indian travellers planning a UK visit.

(With Reuters inputs)

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