Indian visitors to the UK may continue to be placed under mandatory quarantine even as the UK's international travel restrictions and the three-tier colour-coded list of countries (red, amber & green) are reviewed next week, diplomatic sources told Moneycontrol.
Visitors from India, a 'red list' nation, are subjected to a 10-day mandatory quarantine period, preferably at a government-designated hotel after arriving in the UK. Even those who have received both doses of the vaccine have to undergo quarantine.
However, what has irked many Indians is that no such rule exists for visitors from the US or European Union, both of which fall in the UK's 'amber list' of nations.
The issue has been raised by Indian visitors -- international students, British citizens of Indian origins and travellers on business visas -- online with many decrying the discrimination. A case in point is the UK administering to its citizens the same AstraZeneca vaccine, which is branded as Covishield in India and is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
Status quo expected
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
On August 4-5, the UK government is expected to release the updated travel restriction list with countries moving up or down the categories based on the level of the infections there. However, London's stance on the issue is not expected to change soon, senior diplomatic sources say.
Pointing to the high incidence of mutations of the COVID virus in India and the continuing impact of the Delta variant, they say India is expected to remain on the ‘red list’ for now.
"India could move up to the amber category but with the recent spate of new cases across the western and southern coastal states, many of which have multiple cities acting as major points of international traffic, we understand the situation remains sensitive. We have given our inputs to London," a senior diplomatic source said.
The spreading Delta variant is a particular point of concern, he added. US President Joe Biden also recently warned against the variant, saying it may lead to a spike in cases if vaccinations don't happen. The US Federal government has also asked all government employees to quickly get vaccinated.
MEA sources say that while the government has not approached the UK on this matter specifically, it continues to engage with all countries broadly on the issue.Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan informed the Rajya Sabha this week that the government has been making efforts for easing travel restrictions for Indian students enrolled in foreign universities.