Saturday, October 16, 2021

India imposes reciprocity on visitors from UK

India has decided to impose reciprocity on UK nationals arriving in India from the UK with mandatory quarantine. Although the British High Commission spokesperson in New Delhi has expressed that “UK is 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 new Indian regulations will come into effect from October 4, and will be applicable to all UK nationals arriving from the UK.

What does the new guideline say?

From October 4, upon arrival in India, all UK citizens, regardless of their vaccination status, must undergo mandatory ten-day quarantine within the country. They will also have to undertake pre-departure Covid- 19 RT-PCR test within 72 hours before travel, again at the airport on arrival and then on day 8 after the arrival. The new measures will be implemented by the authorities in MOH&FW and civil aviation ministry.

This comes after the UK revised its international travel norms, making quarantine and negative Covid-19 test mandatory for travellers from India.

What is the row?

The UK changed its travel and quarantine rules in the last week of September. The UK’s new international travel norms essentially considered fully vaccinated Indians as “unvaccinated” and made it mandatory for them to quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the country.

From October 4, visitors from 17 countries, including Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, will be able to enter the UK with one of four vaccines approved by the UK government, including Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, or Janssen.

India was left out of these 17 countries on an approved vaccinations list. It meant that Indians were to follow rules set out for “non-vaccinated” travellers.

In actual terms, it meant that despite Covishield now being recognised within the UK’s eligible vaccine formulations, it would not offer any advantage to Covishield-vaccinated Indian travellers planning a UK visit.

Thus the travellers who are vaccinated in a country such as India must take a pre-departure test. After arrival in the UK, they will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

The background

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, while addressing newly-appointed British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, had demanded Covishield be added to the updated UK travel guide. But the UK foreign ministry clarifying that the Covishield formulas may be approved vaccines but not the Indian Covid-19 certificates.

This complicated the matter even further. The UK had earlier officially recognized the Covishield vaccine as one of four jabs which if taken, ensured international visitors could enter the UK. But, what is baffling is that the Indians who took Covishield vaccine in India still had to meet the quarantine rules while visiting the UK. This forced India to resort to what is understood as ‘reciprocal curbs’ in the diplomatic jargons.

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