The health authorities in the United Kingdom have created a controversy with their post-Covid travel rules, effective from October 4. In practical terms, travellers from India will not be allowed to enter the country except after 10 days of quarantine. Even those who took two jabs of Covishield will not be exempted from the rule. In other words, the UK treats all those who took the vaccine and also those who recovered from Covid-19 as unprotected and risky to the Brits. This is unacceptable, to say the least. Though Covishield is produced by the Serum Institute of India, it is a variant of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine used extensively in the UK. Incidentally, the World Health Organisation, the US health authorities and 18 European countries have accepted the efficacy of Covishield.
It may be too harsh to call the UK’s decision racist but it comes close to it. The British government should have realised that the world’s second largest population, after China, which has vaccinated itself against Covid-19, belongs to India. Elaborate tests and studies have concluded that Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V, the three vaccines used in India, are effective against the Covid-19 variant that hit the country. True, a few of the recipients of the vaccine contracted the disease and died. The point that the same can be said about all the anti-Covid vaccines in the world cannot be overlooked. Indian students, who account for the second largest number after China, who study or intend to study in Britain will be the worst affected. They will be put to a lot of needless trouble. They will also have to bear the cost of quarantine and attendant tests.
Obviously,the British authorities are ill-informed about the state of vaccination in India. Yes, there were certain initial hiccups and they have been overcome to a large extent. More and more people are willingly coming forward to accept vaccination; many of them at their own cost. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in the US where many are not ready to take the jab, despite all the incentives given by the Federal and state governments. The problem of shortage of vaccines has also been brought under control. Yes, there are some areas of concern which, fortunately, are being attended to.
The Indian government has hinted at applying “reciprocity” which means travellers from the UK will have to undergo a 10-day quarantine when they arrive in the country. This may be seen as a knee-jerk reaction, however warranted it is. A better option will be to use the diplomatic channels to make Britain understand that Covishield is a variant of the same vaccine that the UK developed. It should be asked in plain language why Covishield is unacceptable to the UK when it is acceptable in 18 European countries, including France, not to mention the US. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander too.