The UK’s updated Covid-19 travel rules place Indians inoculated with Covishield in the ‘unvaccinated’ category. While the country has relaxed the regulations for those with two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, the same version being manufactured in India Serum Institute of India has been left off the list.
UK travel rules now
The current system in place in the UK designates countries as ‘red’, ‘green’, and ‘amber’. If a person has been in a country in the ‘red list’ in the 10 days prior to arriving in the UK, they have to undergo 10-day institutional quarantine; take a Covid-19 test on or before the second day or after the eighth day of quarantine. Even people who have completed vaccinatation are required to follow the rules. Quarantine rules violations attract a £10,000 penalty, while arriving in the country without a negative test can lead to a £5,000 fine.
At present, India is in the ‘amber list’. According to the current travel rules, if a person has been in a country in the ‘amber list’ in the 10 days prior to their arrival in England, they have to undergo a Covid-19 test within a maximum of 72 hours before travelling to England. If a traveller arrives in England without a negative Covid-19 test, there is a £500 fine. Following arrival, the visitor will have to undertake a Covid-19 test on the second day.
The pre-departure test is mandatory for fully vaccinated flyers as well. However, they are exempt from institutional quarantine if they have completed the full course of a UK ‘authorised’ vaccine. The country’s ‘authorised’ vaccines include two doses of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine (the final dose must be administered at least 14 days before arrival), or a dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
If travellers arriving from amber list countries are not fully vaccinated with an authorised vaccine, they have to undergo quarantine at home or where they are staying; take a Covid-19 test on or before the second day. They will then have to undergo another test on or after the eighth day. If a traveller tests positive, the entire household must undergo a 10-day quarantine. If a traveller’s samples throw up a ‘variant of concern’, all their contacts would be asked to submit themselves for a test.
Travellers from countries in the ‘green list’ will need to take a Covid-19 test three days prior to their arrival in England and book a test on the second day after arriving. The UK exempts travellers from green list countries from quarantine unless they test positive on day two.
The new rules
From October 4, the UK will have only one list of countries — red. For travel from non-red list countries, the rules will vary depending on the traveller’s vaccination status.
Travellers from India
The UK recognises the full course of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Janssen, or Moderna vaccines from relevant public health bodies in Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Canada, Brunei, Israel, Dominica, Kuwait, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Korea Singapore, or Taiwan. It even allows mixing of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines.
Although India predominantly uses Covishield for vaccination, a version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, it has been kept off the list.
The exclusion of Covishield, the same vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca, means Indians inoculated with the jab would have to undergo a pre-flight test within 72 hours before travelling to England; pay for two more tests in England; and spend 10 days in home quarantine.
Indian travellers can end the quarantine before 10 if they can stump up the cash for a private test through the UK’s ‘test to release’ scheme.
Government sources told The Indian Express that they were taking resort to the reciprocity principle. A ‘note verbale’ stating that UK citizens would also have to undergo a 10-day quarantine on arrival has already been sent to the UK Embassy.