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India warns UK of tit for tat on Covishield stand

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

UK quarantine rule for Indians ‘discriminatory’, says New Delhi

Taking strong exception to the UK Government not recognising the Covishield vaccine and mandating even those Indians who received both its doses to undergo 10 days of self-isolation after their arrival to that country, India on Tuesday termed it as a “discriminatory policy” and warned of a “reciprocal” action.

Sounding this stern note, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla also said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar discussed the issue with his British counterpart Liz Truss in New York on Monday. The issue was likely to be resolved soon following certain assurances, Shringla said. “Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,” Jaishankar tweeted after he met Truss.

Enunciating India’s position, Shringla said the UK decision to not recognise Covishield is a “discriminating policy” thereby creating trouble for the Indians travelling to England.

 In an announcement on Monday, the UK said Indian travelers, who have received both doses of the Covishield, will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10

days there.

“The non-recogition of Covishield is a discriminating policy and impacts our citizens travelling to the UK. The External Affairs Minister has raised the issue strongly with the new UK foreign secretary,” Shringla said.

Adopting a tough stance, he also cautioned the UK that India is well within its rights to resort to reciprocal action over the new Covid rules.

Addressing a news conference here, the Foreign Secretary said, “The basic issue is that, here’s a vaccine — Covishield — which is a licensed product of a UK company manufactured in India of which we have supplied five million doses to the UK at the request of the Government. But if we don’t get satisfaction we would be within our rights to impose reciprocal measures.”

The new UK rules said the current “traffic light system” of red, amber, green countries based on levels of Covid-19 risk will be replaced by one red list of countries from October 4. India is currently on the amber list and the expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in the UK does not include India.

The British High Commission in New Delhi has said the UK is working with India on ways to resolve the issue of the Covid-19 vaccine certification issued by Indian authorities.

“We are engaging with the Government of India to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India,” a British High Commission spokesperson said.

“The UK is committed to opening up international travel again as soon as is practicable and this announcement is a further step to enable people to travel more freely again, in a safe and sustainable way, while protecting public health,” the spokesperson added.

Reacting to the fresh restrictions, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has cancelled a planned book tour of Britain in protest against the rules. “It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine,” he said. Another Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the decision “smacks of racism”.

 In New York, Jaishankar urged for an “early resolution” of the Covid-19 quarantine issue during his meeting with the newly appointed British Foreign Secretary.

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