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India calls new UK Covid-19 vaccine rules ‘discriminatory'

Sheikh Saaliq Associated Press

India has criticised the British decision not to recognise coronavirus vaccine certificates issued by Indian authorities, calling it a “discriminatory policy”.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the new rules unveiled last week, which take effect next month, could force India to “impose reciprocal measures” if it isn’t resolved.

The new rules require Indians visiting the UK to quarantine for 10 days and undergo Covid-19 tests even if they are fully vaccinated with Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine.

The vaccine, produced under licence by India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, is not recognised by the UK. The institute has not formally applied to the European Union for official approval of its AstraZeneca vaccine, which it calls Covishield.

“Here is a vaccine, Covishield, which is a licenced product of a UK company, manufactured in India, of which we have supplied 5 million doses to the UK at the request of the Government of the UK. We understand that this has been used in the national health system and therefore, non-recognition of Covishield is a discriminatory policy,” Shringla told reporters.

India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said he discussed the matter with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

In a tweet, Jaishankar said he urged Truss to quickly resolve the issue.

The new rules, which also require people arriving from many other countries to undergo quarantine, have sparked anger in India.

On Monday, a leader of the main opposition Congress party, Shashi Tharoor, said he has cancelled a book tour of Britain in protest and accused the UK Government of “double standards”.

Another lawmaker, Jairam Ramesh, said the decision “smacks of racism”.

The vast majority of Indians have been vaccinated with the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine. Others have received Covaxin, which is not used in Britain.

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, has said it will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October after a months-long freeze because of massive surge in domestic infections.

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