UK’s Covid-related travel rules: colonial racist attitudes persist

 The hypocrisy and racism in the ‘rules-based international order’ that the West likes to champion have been laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic. After racist Western media coverage and the selfish behavior of Western governments in hoarding vaccines, we are now seeing double standards in travel policies.

As per the new Covid-related travel rules in the United Kingdom, fully jabbed Bharatiya citizens will be considered unvaccinated in the country and will have to undergo 10 days of quarantine. They also have to undergo a pre-departure Covid-19 test within the three days before the travel date, and after arrival in the UK take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.

This is what the UK considers fully vaccinated – 

  • vaccinated under an approved vaccination programme in the UK, Europe, USA or UK vaccine programme overseas
  • vaccinated with a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan or the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Discriminatory policy

So the same Covishield vaccine – manufactured in Bharat by SII and supplied to UK and other Western countries – that is being given in Western countries as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, is not considered good enough if given in Bharat.

The AstraZeneca vaccine given to Brits was largely manufactured locally, but 5 million British people have received jabs of Covishield manufactured in Bharat. In July, Professor Adam Finn, from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said “the batches are exactly the same stuff… people (who have received the made-in-Bharat vaccine) should not be concerned that they are in some way less well protected.”

And it’s not just Bharat. Travelers from countries in Africa and South America too which have vaccinated their citizens with the same Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that are on UK’s approved list for travellers from USA and Europe, will also have to quarantine.

Bharat’s foreign ministry condemned the discriminatory move. 

“The non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminating policy and impacts our citizens travelling to the UK. The External Affairs Minister has raised the issue strongly with the new UK foreign secretary. I am told that certain assurances have been given that this issue will be resolved,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said Tuesday. 

MP Shashi Tharoor pulled out of a book launch function in the UK in protest, tweeting on Monday, “It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine.” 

Dr MC Mishra, Ex AIIMS director, said that people should boycott travelling to the UK as long as the new rule exists. He said that all countries should come forward and severely criticize the new travel restrictions imposed by the UK government. Calling the travel restriction baseless and illogical, he asked “how a vaccine can be effective in the UK and non effective in other nations?”

The tough diplomacy and pushback had an effect. UK added Covishield to its list of approved Covid-19 vaccines for travel to the country. Their advisory now states, “Formulations of the 4 listed vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, qualify as approved vaccines.”

But there is a catch. Bharat is still not on the list of 18 countries (outside the US and Europe) from where travelers are considered fully vaccinated! Now, we are hearing that UK has a problem with the digital vaccine certificate generated through the CoWin app.

This generated some sharp responses on social media as CoWin is a world class app and Bharat’s digitally generated vaccine certificates are far superior to what some Western countries are providing to their citizens.

Others tried to defend the UK government’s discriminatory move by regurgitating colonial stereotypes about ‘deceitful Indians’. 

Some pointed out that the surge of Covid cases in UK despite claiming to fully vaccinate 67% of their population raised its own questions about the success of their vaccination drive. Journalist and author Shiv Aroor summarized the mood in Bharat pretty accurately in a couple of tweets – 

(Featured image source: Indian Express)



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