Indians Who Have Been Vaccinated Are Not Covered By The UK's 'Simplified' Travel Rules

Despite India-made Covishield being named among its globally eligible vaccine formulations, the UK had outraged India by not accepting fully vaccinated Indian visitors as part of its new criteria last month.

Indians Who Have Been Vaccinated Are Not Covered By The UK's 'Simplified' Travel Rules
Indians Who Have Been Vaccinated Are Not Covered By The UK's 'Simplified' Travel Rules

The so-called "simplified" international travel system in Britain, which does away with an amber list of medium COVID-19 risk countries, went into force on Monday, however, it provides no benefits to vaccinated Indians visiting the UK. Despite including India-made Covishield among its stated globally approved vaccine formulations, the UK enraged India by refusing to recognise fully vaccinated Indian travellers as part of the new guidelines released last month.

In reaction, India placed reciprocal measures on all British travellers, regardless of vaccination status, requiring the same level of PCR tests and a 10-day quarantine at the declared destination, both of which are in effect as of Monday.  A UK government official said, "We continue to engage with overseas partners, including India, to roll out our phased strategy." The United Kingdom's new system covers more than 50 countries, including the United States and European Union (EU) members, as well as 18 others like Canada, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Travellers from these countries no longer need to take a pre-departure test, a day 8 test, or a 10-day self-isolation requirement before visiting England. They only need to take a single PCR test on their second day in the UK. The Department for Transport stated, "This builds on the UK government's successful trial phase with Europe and the US, and brings the total number of nations under scope of the policy to over 50, with more countries and territories being added in the coming weeks."

India not being on the list of eligible countries means travellers are required to undertake all three tests -- pre-departure, day 2 and day 8 -- and self-isolate at a declared address, with the option of "test to release" from isolation after a negative PCR test on day 5. This effectively remains unchanged from India's amber list status already in place. Travellers from the 54 countries on the red list are still obliged to stay in a government-designated hotel for a 10-day quarantine, a provision the UK government is thought to be considering abolishing for the bulk of the nations on the red list later this month. 

For vaccinated immigrants, the British government wants to replace PCR tests with a less expensive lateral flow test starting in the middle of this month. However, the timing and specifics of this adjustment are unknown.

Meanwhile, UK government sources said over the weekend that the extension of vaccine certification to additional countries will be reviewed approximately every three weeks and that it continues to engage with the Indian government on the issue.

"The UK is continuing to work on expanding the policy to countries and territories across the globe in a phased approach. We are continuing to engage with the government of India on technical cooperation to expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India,” sources said.

"We are working with an array of international partners and look forward to continuing the expansion of the policy to countries and territories across the globe in a phased approach. Extension of vaccine certification will be reviewed approximately every three weeks,” they added.

Later this week, the first three-week review period since the UK's new travel regulations were first announced will come to an end. 
"We're moving closer to a future in which travel reopens safely and stays open indefinitely, and today's regulatory amendments are fantastic news for families, businesses, and the travel industry,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday. 

"Our top goal is to preserve public health, but now that more than 8 out of 10 individuals have been completely vaccinated, we can take these actions to reduce the cost of testing and boost the sector's recovery,” he said. Before travel, all passengers arriving in the UK from any country must complete a passenger locator form. 

Meanwhile, the UK's travel industry has welcomed the government's latest move on easing testing and quarantine restrictions. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents UK carriers, said: "Things are moving in the right direction and the removal of these restrictions will make it easier and cheaper for people to travel."
However, he said the UK remained "an outlier on arrivals testing for vaccinated passengers".

According to the BBC, Airlines UK wishes to see additional nations removed off the red list in the next update, as well as more mutual acceptance of immunisation status for passengers who have been vaccinated in other countries. The shift was hailed as a "good step" by Willie Walsh, president of the International Air Transport Association, who said the government's testing and quarantine requirements were both unscientific and costly. 

"The public has been taught to believe that the danger comes from people flying into the nation. The threat came from within the country "he stated