The UK unveiled new rules last week, Indians who have received two shots of the Covishield jab will be treated as unvaccinated and have to quarantine themselves for 10 days, even though the vaccine is the same as the AstraZeneca vaccine developed by Oxford University but manufactured in India and in use many Western countries like Canada.
Travellers from several countries who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine are allowed into the UK without having to quarantine if they meet certain conditions, but not Indians in a move that is seen as discriminatory. This has left Indians, who are potential travellers, exasperated.
UK rules for Indians go beyond quarantine
On one hand, India and UK are discussing progress of Roadmap 2030, an ambitious, decade-long plan to strengthen India-UK ties in areas ranging from defence cooperation and technology to climate change and investment. But on the other hand, UK demonstrates "senseless discrimination" towards Indians trying to visit the country citing non-scientific quarantine rules.
Besides a 10-day quarantine, the UK's quarantine rules for Indians are biased despite the fact that citizens of both countries have been inoculated by the same vaccine. EU nationals who've got two doses of Vaxzevria can enter the UK without quarantine, but not Indian students.
While imposing these restrictions on Indian travellers, it is to be noted that the quarantine doesn't comes with strings attached.
"Fully vaxxed Indian nationals who want to test to release on Day 5 (of what would otherwise be a 10 day quarantine) pay in the range of Rs.22,500 or £222.75. These would be among the cheaper testing options in the UK," NDTV reported. For context, getting three RT-PCR tests with same day results would cost Rs 2,700, which is only a fraction of what UK is charging.
There are even allegations of a scam that's been going on in the face of arbitrary rules.
India speaks up
India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has raised with the UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss her country's rules that require vaccinated Indian travellers to be quarantined and urged an early resolution of the issue.
"Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest," he tweeted after meeting Truss in New York on Monday as he began holding bilateral meetings with leaders from around the world.
UK, however, is yet to comment on the meeting between Jaishankar and Truss.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Monday said that he has pulled out of a book launch function after the UK government changed rules for Indian travellers.
Expressing his discontent, Tharoor shared a link that said, "UK government confirmed tonight that if a person has been vaccinated in Africa, or South America, or countries including UAE, India, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, Russia, you are considered 'unvaccinated' and must follow 'unvaccinated' rules = 10-day home quarantine & tests."
Similarly, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh termed the UK travel policy bizarre. In a tweet he said, "Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism."
(Added agency inputs)