India announces COVID-19 tests and quarantine for Britons

NEW DELHI (AP) — India said Friday that British nationals arriving in the country will be subjected to COVID-19 tests and a 10-day mandatory quarantine, in response to the same measures imposed on Indians visiting the U.K.

India has been demanding that Britain revoke what it called a “discriminatory” advisory that includes Indians even if they are fully vaccinated with the Indian-made AstraZeneca shots.

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had discussed the issue with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in a meeting in New York earlier this week.

A foreign ministry official said that starting on Monday, all British arrivals, irrespective of their vaccination status, will have to undertake RT-PRC test within 72 hours before travel, another test on arrival in India and the third one eight days later.

They will also have to quarantine at home or at their destination address for 10 days, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The U.K. Foreign Commonwealth and Development office said Friday it was in contact with Indian authorities. It said “the Indian authorities are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules of entry into India.”

The trouble started when Britain’s government announced what it billed as a simplification of its travel rules including allowing fully vaccinated travelers arriving in England from much of the world to skip quarantine and take fewer tests.

But the fine print on who was considered fully vaccinated proved complicated. In order to skip self-isolation, travelers must have received a vaccine under the American, British or European programs or have received a U.K.-authorized shot from an approved health body. Bodies in more than a dozen countries in Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East made it to the list, However, India’s program was not included, nor were any programs in Africa.

Countries that received hundreds of thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the U.K. itself were left wondering why their vaccination programs weren’t good enough in the eyes of the British government. That’s leading to concerns that the rules could exacerbate already worrying vaccine hesitancy in Africa as some question whether the doses available there don’t measure up.

The vast majority of Indians have been vaccinated with Indian-made AstraZeneca shots.

The spat demonstrates an exasperation with the U.K. position on a number of issues, said Rob Yates, director of the global health program at the Chatham House think tank in London.

Yates said, for example, the UK is one of the worst performers among the Group of Seven industrialized countries in re-allocating vaccines it doesn’t need using the COVAX facility, which aims for equitable distribution of vaccines. It has also blocked efforts to waive vaccine patents.

“I think this is indicative of the lack of solidarity that has been shown by governments and by politicians, both in locking down and opening up,″ he said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re seeing tit-for-tat. In terms of humanity and for us all this is what we want to be avoiding. We want much more cooperation.″

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been produced by Serum Institute of India. Others have received COVAXIN, a vaccine produced by an Indian company that is not used in Britain.

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, said earlier this week that it will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October after a monthslong freeze because of the massive surge in domestic infections.

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Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

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