UK okays Covishield, but confusion continues over travel advisory

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“We’re clear that Covishield is not a problem. The UK is open to travel and we’re already seeing a lot of people going from India to the UK, be it tourists, business people or students…reports Asian Lite News.

Amid the vaccine row with the UK, the British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, said on Wednesday that the Covishield vaccine is not a problem and the UK is open for travel from the country.

After much criticism, the UK government on Wednesday approved Covishield in its updated international travel advisory. The UK revised its travel rules after India had warned of “reciprocal measures” if Britain did not address its concerns.

Ellis said the UK government wants to make the process of travelling as easy as possible.

“We’re clear that Covishield is not a problem. The UK is open to travel and we’re already seeing a lot of people going from India to the UK, be it tourists, business people or students.

“Over 62,500 student visas have been issued in the year ending June 2021, which is an increase of almost 30 per cent as compared to the previous cycle. We want to make the process of travelling as easy as possible,” the British High Commissioner said.

Even though the SII developed Covishield vaccine has been approved in the revised travel guidelines by the UK, Indian travellers who have received two doses of Covishield are still required to undergo 10-day quarantine on reaching the UK.

Ellis said that they are having detailed discussions with both the app builders — CoWIN and NHS.

Ellis said that the both the governments are taking action and holding discussions so that the two countries mutually recognise the vaccine certificates issued by each other.

“We have been having detailed technical discussions regarding certification with the builders of CoWIN and NHS about both the apps. They’re happening at a rapid pace to ensure that both countries mutually recognise the vaccine certificates issued by each other,” the British High Commissioner said.

Confusion remains

There is still confusion over the UK’s vaccine recognition process for Indian travellers. Even though UK’s new travel rules state that AstraZeneca Covishield is among vaccines that qualify as approved, India is not yet on the list of 17 countries mentioned.

The ‘changes to international travel rules’ state that formulations of the four listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, qualify as approved vaccines.

Travellers will also qualify as fully vaccinated if they have taken full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan or the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Covishield, which has been developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, is manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told media persons on Tuesday that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had raised the issue strongly with the UK.

“Have raised the discriminatory nature of UK vaccine recognition for AstraZeneca but not Covishield. Discussions on, but if they do not satisfy us, we would be well within our rights to take reciprocal action,” Shringla had said.

“Non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminating policy and impacts Indian citizens travelling to the UK. I am told that certain assurances have been given that this issue will be resolved,” he added.

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