Racism, offensive: Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma, Tharoor slam UK's Covid travel rules
New Delhi: Former Union ministers and Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor on Monday slammed the UK's COVID-19-related travel rules under which Indians vaccinated with Covishield would still be treated as unvaccinated, with Ramesh saying it "smacks of racism".
While Tharoor said that because of the restrictions he had even pulled out of a debate at The Cambridge Union debating society and from the launch events for the UK edition of his latest book, Sharma urged the Prime Minister's Office to take a stand against the UK's double standards and cancel the proposed India-UK trade talks.
Passengers who aren't recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England's international travel rules, including Indians, will still have to take a pre-departure test, further PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of arrival, and self-isolate at their given address for 10 days upon entry, according to the rules.
Tweeting on the restrictions, Congress leader Ramesh said, "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."
Tagging a thread on Twitter that explained the rules, Tharoor also slammed the restrictions on vaccinated Indians, saying, "Because of this I have pulled out of a debate at the @cambridgeunion & out of launch events for the UK edition of my book #TheBattleOfBelonging (published there as #TheStruggleForIndiasSoul)."
"It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine. The Brits are reviewing!" the former minister of state for external affairs said.
Former minister Sharma said the UK government's decision of not recognising fully vaccinated Indians is "discriminatory, racist and deserves strongest condemnation".
"Covishield is same as Astrazeneca in UK & manufactured under license by Serum Institute of India and exported to European countries including UK. WHO has approved it too. A humiliation of India -- the world's largest vaccine manufacturer," Sharma said.
Indian students and citizens are being harassed and fleeced for exorbitant tests, the Congress leader said.
"Urging @PMOIndia to take a stand against UK's double standards & cancel the proposed India-UK Trade talks," Sharma said.
From October 4, the current traffic light system of red, amber and green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk will be scrapped in the UK and replaced with one red list only.
The scrapping of an amber list, which is what India is currently on, means reduced cost burden for travellers -- especially for the Indian diaspora vaccinated in the UK -- related to compulsory PCR tests.
However, an expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in England does not include India, which means that Indians vaccinated with Covishield -- the Serum Institute of India produced Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine -- would still be subjected to the restrictions mandatory for those unvaccinated.
This new two-tiered system in the UK is expected to stay in place till the end of the year, with a further review planned for early in the new year. PTI