The new Covid-19 travel rules of UK is a simplified version of travel regulations in comparison to its previous traffic light scheme. In the new relaxed rule, fully-vaccinated travellers can now directly travel to the UK and only need to take a Covid-19 test on day 2 of their arrival. However, the rule will not apply to Indians.
Vaccinated travellers from other countries (barring those on the red list) can skip the the mandatory 10-day quarantine on arrival, but Indians will not be able to do that.
The new travel guidelines for UK will begin on October 4.
Update: UK has issued its revised international travel advisory on Wednesday, in which it approved several formulations of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine – including the Covishield shot manufactured by the Serum Institute. But it has still kept countries like India, which use Covishield, in the list where travellers are required to be quarantined when they reach Britain.
What's UK's new Covid-19 travel guideline?
In the UK's earlier traffic light system, countries were listed into three categories — red, amber and green. The segregation is done based on "the risk posed by individual countries and territories".
Travellers from a 'red list' country, even if they are fully vaccinated, have to quarantine for 10 days in a quarantine hotel. Thereafter, they have to take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 or after day 8 of quarantining. The penalty is up to £10,000 for violation of quarantine rules, and £5,000 for arriving without a prior negative test.
India was moved to the amber list on August 8 and travellers have been allowed entry in the UK after following the protocols.
If you are travelling from India to the UK, you have to take a Covid-19 test in the three days before the travel date. The fine is £500 if you travel without one.
The prior test is necessary for fully vaccinated travellers too. But they are exempt from quarantine if they have taken the full course of an 'authorised' vaccine. After arrival, they have to take a Covid-19 test on day 2.
What are the 'authorised' vaccines? It includes two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. After much outrage from Indian lawmakers, UK's new list included Covishield, the formulation of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Travellers who have been vaccinated under an approved vaccination programme in the UK, US, Europe or UK vaccine programme overseas (approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), can skip the pre-departure RT-PCR test and the mandatory 10-day quarantine on arrival.
Those who have received Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a 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 or Taiwan – mixing between two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna) in this list, are also eligible.
Participants of formally-approved clinical trials in the US, Canada and Australia, are also on the list.
Why Indian travellers considered 'unvaccinated' in UK?
The exclusion had provoked heated discussions on social media. Politicians including former Union minister Jairam Ramesh and senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor have also slammed the UK government's decision. "Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism," read Ramesh's tweet.
Tharoor, on the other hand, has pulled out of his scheduled British events, citing the policy 'offensive'. The British High Commission in Delhi, in a response, said that it is engaging with the Government of India expand vaccine certification and ease travel.
While AstraZeneca's UK counterpart produced under the brand name Vaxzevria, is accepted; the one produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) was not. However, UK has updated their vaccine list, including the Covishield.
Earlier in June, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) left Covishield out of the EU digital passport launched in July, citing that SII had not applied for authorisation in Europe.
Aadar Poonawalla, CEO, SII, had tweeted in response on June 28, "I realise that a lot of Indians who have taken COVISHIELD are facing issues with travel to the E.U., I assure everyone, I have taken this up at the highest levels and hope to resolve this matter soon, both with regulators and at a diplomatic level with countries." SII has since not commented on the authorisation.
How can you travel to UK?
If you are still looking to travel to the UK, vaccinated or not, you will still to prepare for the following regulations before departure and after arrival.
- You need to get an RT-PCR test 3 days before your departure.
- Children aged below 10, those travelling on medical emergencies are exempted from the COVID test. There is an additional list of exemptions that you can refer to before you book a test.
- You also need to fill a Passenger Locator Form before you travel.
- Book and pay for two tests, to be taken on the 2nd and the 8th day after arrival in UK.
Once you arrive…
- Take the two COVID-19 tests, on the second day after arrival and one or after the eighth day. You could book a quarantine hotel package that includes two Covid tests.
- You need to quarantine for 10 days at your planned place of residence. Your day of arrival is counted as Day 0.
- Travellers who are below 18 years of age on the date of arrival in the UK are exempted from the 10-day quarantine.
- Alternatively, you could opt for the Test to Release scheme. Under this, you could choose to pay for a Covid-19 test on day 5 of your arrival. If the results of your day 2 and day 5 tests are negative, you can end your quarantine.
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