COVID-19: UAE residents, Indian leaders slam UK's new travel policy

Under the new rules, those who took vaccine in the UAE, India will be considered unvaccinated

Queues of people wait in line at U.K. citizens arrivals at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, September 1, 2021.

Queues of people wait in line at U.K. citizens arrivals at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, September 1, 2021.

REUTERS/Guy Faulconbridge

Even after the UK announced easing of travel rules related to Covid-19, travellers who received their vaccines in the UAE, India and a few other countries will be considered ‘unvaccinated’ in the UK.

According to the rules, passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated will 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.

The rules announced last week will be effective October 4. Britain said it will recognise vaccinations given in 17 more countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. It had previously recognised only shots given in the UK, the US and the European Union.

However, James Cleverly, Minister for Middle East & North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, said the UK government is finalising arrangements to include the UAE in the plans. “We are finalising arrangements with UAE to include their nationals and residents in our plans to open up to the fully vaccinated from other countries from 4 October,” he said in a tweet.

UK expats residing in the UAE responded angrily to the tweet.

“I hope you’re right. I’m a UK citizen and resident vaccinated while in Dubai, had to do severe rounds of unnecessary quarantine not to mention the cost. It breaks my heart that I feel unwelcome in my own country. It makes no sense!,” said Twitter handle @nataliebirkett.

@EnsOrenda replied to Cleverly: “UAE has a very high vaccine rate, low case rates & v.low death rates. We are obliged to wear face mask in all public places still. The UAE represents a much lower risk than many approved countries. So, it makes sense to recognise Pfizer and AZ vaccines administered from UAE too.”

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras also criticised the policy, saying it is unnecessarily complicated.

“Quite something for UK to take such a stance against so many countries vaccine rollouts…especially those countries administering the exact same vaccines as UK (Pfizer/AZ/Moderna/etc). As we’ve come to expect, UK’s latest travel policy is as unnecessarily complicated as ever."

Author WIlliam Darlymple used harsh words to slam the policy. “Idiotic UK arrogance & stupidity- especially when Boris was arguing that the Indian AstraZeneca vaccine was the same as the UK one earlier in the Summer,” he said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, former Indian ministers Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor slammed the UK’s travel rules under which Indians vaccinated with Covishield would still be treated as unvaccinated.

Ramesh called 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 book, The Battle Of Belonging.

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.

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