Still, in their colonial slumbers, the United Kingdom recently passed a confounding rule stating that Indian travellers who had received both doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca developed Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) will be considered unvaccinated. To add insult to injury, the rule adds that double vaccinated Indians will have to undergo mandatory hard quarantine for 10 days.
The UK uses the same vaccine
The decision has left the experts and the commoners perplexed because the majority of the population in the UK has been vaccinated with the same vaccine that the Indians have been inoculated with. AstraZeneca and Oxford researched the vaccine while it was manufactured in India by SII in bulk quantities.
Under the new rules, only people who have got both shots of a double-dose vaccine such as Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna or the single shot Janssen vaccine “under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine program overseas” will be considered fully vaccinated.
The new rules become operational from October 4. To whitewash its racism and xenophobia, the British government described the move as an attempt by the UK to change the current “red, amber, green traffic light system” to a single red list of countries and “simplify travel measures” for arrivals from around the world.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII stated that Covishield and the AstraZeneca vaccine are identical and yet the western governments not being able to come up with one regulatory quality standard for vaccine trials and travel passports.
Poonawalla remarked, “Covishield is identical to AstraZeneca vaccine and data has been submitted to the UK MHRA and EU regulators. I have had personal consultations with regulators in the UK and EU and expect a response shortly. We will ensure vaccines made in India are approved in other countries,”
However, the underlying theme of the decision reeks of a colonial hangover which is eerily reminiscent of that of the British raj era where ‘Indians and Dogs were not allowed’ in most of the supposedly aristocratic English establishments.
The Indian government has rightfully lodged its apprehension regarding the brain fade of a decision. India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar while meeting UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss raised the issue and called for early resolution of the quarantine issue in mutual interest.
Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting, “Pleased to meet new UK Foreign Secretary @trussliz. Discussed the progress of Roadmap 2030. Appreciated her contribution on the trade side. Exchanged views on developments in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific. Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,”
Opposition targeting the UK
The issue of vaccine racism even brought the usually divisive opposition of the country together. Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor took to Twitter and remarked that he had cancelled several of his events in the UK due to the offensive rule. Tharoor tweeted, “Because of this I have pulled out of a debate at the @cambridgeunion &out of launch events for the UK edition of my book #TheBattleOfBelonging (published there as #TheStruggleForIndiasSoul). It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine. The Brits are reviewing!”
Jairam Ramesh, another Congress leader, called the rules “racist”. He tweeted, “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,”
EU tried a similar move, had to backtrack soon
If the UK still considers itself superior, which it certainly is not, and thinks that it will get away with the rule, then it is sadly mistaken. European Union tried to do the same but had to face the wrath of the Modi government and quickly revert on its decision.
As reported by TFI, the EU in June had denied vaccine passports to those inoculated with Covishield – and home-grown Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. Miffed by the discriminatory behaviour of the top European body, the government categorically stated that it will not recognize the EU’s digital Covid certificate until it recognizes Indian vaccines Covishield and Covaxin in the certificate.
Within 24 hours of showing its might and issuing a stern warning to the EU that New Delhi will put its travelling citizens in mandatory quarantine if they touchdown in India, the EU nations surrendered before the Modi government.
Eight EU states Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland, in June included Covishield on their list of approved vaccines required to travel to the continent. Furthermore, Estonia became the first nation in Europe to recognize both Indian vaccines – Covaxin and Covishield.
Big pharma trying to insult India
The UK’s decision comes at a time when the Indian government has been constantly working with ally nations regarding the easing of travel restrictions. During his visit to the UK in July, foreign secretary Shringla called for the early removal of travel restrictions for Indians. He had cited the example of France which has already cleared travellers from India without quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and had a negative COVID test.
Read More: After India’s unsubtle threat to the EU, the EU nations immediately include Covishield and Covaxin in Green Pass
The roaring success of the mass vaccination program in the country, which has already administered over 81 crore vaccine doses has miffed the foreign pharma giants.
Despite tremendous pressure from the lobby, India didn’t submit and allowed foreign pharma to set camp and sell their highly overpriced vaccine. Miffed at not getting a piece of the pie of the biggest markets in the world, the pharma giants are silently pressuring the likes of the UK to bring in such rules so that India can be insulted.