Irate Indians are accusing the UK of racism and discrimination, after India was excluded from a list of countries from which fully vaccinated people can travel to England without 10-day mandatory home isolation and onerous testing requirements.
The British government announced on Friday that it was easing restrictions for travellers who had been fully vaccinated in the US, UK and Europe, as well as Israel, Japan, Australia and a clutch of other east Asian and Gulf nations.
India, however, was excluded from the list, which means that Indians who are fully vaccinated will have to spend 10 days in isolation and undergo costly testing to travel to England.
“UK’s logic — vaccines change when they reach non-white countries,” tweeted Arvind Gupta, former head of the IT cell of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
India has administered more than 800m Covid-19 jabs, providing at least one dose to more than 45 per cent of its population, and fully vaccinating more than 15 per cent, including most affluent residents of the big cities.
Nearly 92 per cent of the jabs dispensed in India have been Covishield, Indian-made doses of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine widely used in the UK’s own vaccination rollout.
Covishield doses are produced by the Serum Insitute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, and have also been exported to many countries, including through the World Health Organization-backed Covax facility.
Jairam Ramesh, a high-profile former Indian cabinet minister and current member of parliament from the opposition Congress party, wrote on Twitter that the UK’s exclusion of people vaccinated in India “smacks of racism”.
“Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute Pune has supplied to that country too,” he wrote.
Shashi Tharoor, the former UN under-secretary general, author and member of the Congress party, said he was withdrawing from an upcoming book tour, as well as a debate at the University of Cambridge Union, in protest. “It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Indian government has not commented publicly on the UK’s new travel policies. New Delhi has previously complained about other countries failing to recognise the efficacy of its vaccine programme.