A new travel advisory by the United Kingdom which says that fully jabbed Indians will not be considered vaccinated in UK and will have to undergo 10 days of quarantine has renewed controversy over freedom of international travel during the pandemic.
Reacting to the new rules, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh took to Twitter and said, "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."
The new rules reflect the UK's decision to scrap its 'amber' list from October 4.
India is currently on that list, as is Pakistan (from Wednesday) but it has not been moved to the expanded 'green' list - countries whose vaccines are recognised by the UK.
Starting October 4, therefore, passengers not vaccinated under "approved programs in the UK (and the UK overseas), Europe or the US" must self-quarantine for 10 days, as well as pay for two Covid tests.
They can pay for an early test to be released from quarantine.
These rules exclude countries - such as Australia, Bahrain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Korea - where the AstraZeneca vaccine (which is produced and sold in India as Covishield) is in use.
The new system is expected to stay in place for at least a year, news agency PTI reported, with the next review only scheduled for early 2022.
The advisory is of particular concern for India, where Covishield is the most widely used vaccine and its non-recognition by the UK (despite its government using the same drug under a different name) will hamper travel plans of students, tourists, business people and others vaccinated in this country.
Covishield already has EUA, or emergency use approval, status from the World Health Organization.
The UK government's decision comes despite over a dozen European nations, including France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, having approved India-made Covishield. Fully vaccinated (with Covishield) individuals do not need to return a negative Covid test to enter these countries.
In July, there was controversy over Covishield's acceptance by the European Union's medical body as well. The EMA had approved the AstraZeneca jab but not Covishield, prompting the Indian government to warn that it would rescind authorization for the former if the latter were not cleared.