Travelers at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India on Tuesday, August 24, 2021.

T. Narayan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

India criticized the UK’s decision to exclude vaccinated Indian travelers from its new travel policies, calling it “discriminatory” and warning against mutual action.

The UK government will allow fully vaccinated travelers from a list of countries to skip the quarantine on arrival next month – but fully vaccinated Indians will still need to be quarantined.

The UK last week eased travel restrictions on fully vaccinated people from 17 countries and territories including Japan and Singapore, stating that they would not need to be in quarantine for 10 days after arriving in England.

Starting October 4th, travelers from these destinations will be required to provide proof of a full course of any of the Covid vaccines currently approved in the UK at least two weeks prior to arrival. The approved vaccines are: Oxford / AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen.

India’s main vaccine is that of Oxford University and Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca – but it is manufactured locally by the Serum Institute of India under the name Covishield. It has been approved by the World Health Organization in an emergency.

If we don’t get satisfaction, we have the right to take mutual action.

Harsh V Shringla

India’s Foreign Minister

“The fundamental problem is that this is a vaccine, Covishield, which is a licensed product from a British company that is made in India,” India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We have shipped 5 million doses to the UK at the request of the UK government. We are aware that this has been used in their national health system.”

“Therefore, not recognizing Covishield is a discriminatory policy and affects those of our citizens who travel to the UK,” he added.

Under the new rules, Indian travelers must be quarantined upon arrival in England and must undergo three rounds of testing regardless of their vaccination status. Many Indian nationals typically travel to the UK to work, study, travel for leisure or to visit their families.

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, has “emphatically” raised the issue with British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, according to Shringla.

“I have been told that certain representations have been made that this issue will be resolved,” he said.

Jaishankar tweeted that during his meeting with Truss in New York, he “pushed for an early resolution of the quarantine problem in the mutual interest”.

Indian opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor said he had pulled out of a debate engagement at the University of Cambridge due to the quarantine order.

“It is insulting to quarantine fully vaccinated Indians,” he said.

Another lawmaker, Jairam Ramesh, said the decision “smells like racism”.

“We’ll have to see how it goes, but if we don’t get satisfaction we have the right to take mutual action,” added Shringla, without going into what some of those actions might be.

Government data showed that India has given more than 825 million doses of vaccine to date as part of one of the largest vaccination drives in the world – approximately 15% of the country’s eligible population have received the two doses required to be considered fully vaccinated, according to the online -Publishing Our World In Dates.

Bharat Biotech’s homemade vaccine called Covaxin has yet to be approved by the World Health Organization. It is likely to further complicate the international travel plans of many Indian nationals.