NEW DELHI: The UK on Monday said it is engaging with India to explore how it could expand the recognition of the COVID-19 vaccine certification issued by Indian authorities amid criticism of the new British travel rules.
The comments by a spokesperson in the British High Commission here came amid concerns in India over the latest Covid-related travel restrictions announced by the United Kingdom.
According to new rules, Indian travellers who have received both doses of the Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10 days.
Asked about the concerns in India over the new rules that will come into effect from October 4, the British High Commission spokesperson said the UK is engaged with India on the issue and is committed to opening up international travel again "as soon as is practicable".
"The UK is committed to opening up international travel again as soon as is practicable and this announcement is a further step to enable people to travel more freely again, in a safe and sustainable way, while protecting public health," the spokesperson said.
"We are engaging with the Government of India to explore how we could expand the UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India," the official added.
From October 4, the current "traffic light system" of red, amber, green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk will be replaced by one red list of countries.
The scrapping of the amber list, which is what India is currently on, means a reduced PCR test cost burden only for some travellers.
The expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in the UK does not include India.
It means Indians vaccinated with Covishield, the SII-produced Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, would be required to undergo compulsory PCR tests as well as self-isolation.
People familiar with the development said the UK has kept visa rules under constant review throughout the pandemic to keep borders open, while gradually and safely restarting travel.
"The UK will continue to review the scientific evidence on other vaccines and keep the health measures under regular review," said one of the persons cited above.
The people said visa applications from Indian travellers for all categories continue to be processed and they do not need to be vaccinated to travel to the UK.
They said regardless of an Indian national's vaccination status, the person travelling from India to the UK must take a pre-departure test and a COVID-19 test on or before day two of the visit, and on or after day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days.
Travellers can also choose to shorten their home quarantine period to around five days under the "Test to Release" service, the people said.