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Angry Indians accuse UK of racism and discrimination, after India was excluded from a list of countries from which fully vaccinated people can travel to England without mandatory 10-day home isolation and onerous testing requirements.
The UK government announced on Friday it was easing restrictions on travelers who had been fully vaccinated in the US, UK and Europe, as well as Israel, Japan, Australia and a handful of other countries in East Asia and the Gulf.
India, however, has been excluded from the list, meaning fully vaccinated Indians will have to spend 10 days in isolation and undergo expensive tests to get to England.
“UK logic – vaccines change when they reach non-white countries,” tweeted Arvind Gupta, former head of the IT cell of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party in India.
India has administered over 800 million Covid-19 vaccines, providing at least one dose to over 45% of its population and fully immunizing over 15%, including the wealthiest residents of major cities.
Almost 92% of vaccines given in India have been Covishields, India-made doses of the Oxford / Astrazeneca vaccine widely used in the UK’s own vaccination rollout.
Doses of Covishield are produced by the Serum Insitute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, and have also been exported to many countries, including through the Covax facility supported by the World Health Organization.
Jairam Ramesh, a former senior Indian 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 that Covishield was originally developed in the UK and Serum Institute Pune supplied to this country as well,” he wrote.
Shashi Tharoor, former UN Under Secretary-General, author and Congress Party member, said he was stepping down from an upcoming book tour, as well as a debate at Cambridge University Union, in protest. “It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to self-quarantine,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Indian government has not publicly commented on the UK’s new travel policies. New Delhi had previously complained that other countries did not recognize the effectiveness of its vaccination program.