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UK briefed on COVID-19 situation in India to review 'red list' travel ban

Under the current rules, India remains on the travel “red list” – which effectively bans visitors from India, with returning citizens required to undergo a compulsory 10-day hotel quarantine on entry to Britain.

July 24, 2021 / 11:03 PM IST
Representative image (Image: Moneycontrol)

Representative image (Image: Moneycontrol)

The UK Foreign Office officials have been briefed on the current COVID-19 pandemic situation in India, where many big cities are practically COVID-free and encouraged to consider a review of the travel ban on visitors from India, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Saturday.

Shringla, who arrived in the UK for a two-day visit on Friday to take stock of the Roadmap 2030 towards closer UK-India ties agreed between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson, also shared plans for a reciprocal vaccine certification system to be unveiled by the Indian government soon to facilitate international travel.

During his visit, he held meetings with senior UK government representatives, including Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Sir Philip Barton and FCDO minister for South Asia Lord Tariq Ahmad. “Mumbai, Delhi, big cities are practically free of COVID. But we can’t rest on that situation because we are constantly vigilant, telling our citizens to take precautions so that we don’t have a third wave,” said Shringla.

“I briefed them [UK officials] on the COVID situation in India. I pointed out that France had cleared visitors from India without quarantine, if they are double vaccinated and have a negative test. The US has upgraded India in the travel scheme, encouraged the UK to do the same and they took note of it,” he said, in response to a question on international travel.

Under the current rules, India remains on the travel “red list” – which effectively bans visitors from India, with returning citizens required to undergo a compulsory 10-day hotel quarantine on entry to Britain.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

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.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

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.

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With reference to instances of the India-made Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, not being recognized by the European Union (EU), the Foreign Secretary reiterated that AstraZeneca had applied to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on behalf of the Serum Institute of India (SII) in a letter dated May 14.

“It’s an Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured under a transfer of technology in India so there can’t be any difference in product – between that produced at the Serum Institute of India (SII) or anywhere else,” said Shringla.

“The EU has said they will leave it to individual member states to decide and 14 EU countries have already recognised Covishield, two of them have also recognised Covaxin suo moto. We are now asking all countries that you recognise our vaccine certification on a mutual reciprocal basis, recognising the integrity of that process,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary also reflected on the “severe” second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic faced by India earlier this year and welcomed the critical support from partner countries with essential supplies, including the UK.

“When I met my UK interlocutors, I also thanked them for the level of spontaneous support we received in the form of oxygen plants, concentrators, cylinders. One of the first flights that came in was from the UK. It was a great morale booster, which lifted confidence at a time when things looked despondent, not for any other reason but the short period of time when there was a gap between demand and supply,” he recalled.

Giving an update on the current situation in India, the Foreign Secretary said India had now reached a point where it is able to supply its excess liquid oxygen and life-saving medication like Remdesivir to neighbouring countries in need, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand.

“Wherever there is need, it is incumbent upon us as a member of the international community to support those needs,” he said.

“What is important to note is that this is a global phenomenon. It is cyclical; it is going to happen in different parts of the world,” he added.

On India’s vaccination drive, the Foreign Secretary said 410 million doses of vaccines have been administered and production is being ramped up in the country to increase the rate of acceleration. “Our effort is to ensure all eligible 950 million citizens in the country are vaccinated and we’ll attain a level of immunity that will make the impact of COVID-19 minimum,” he said.
first published: Jul 24, 2021 11:03 pm

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