New Delhi: British High Commissioner Alex Ellis and National Health Authority Chairman RS Sharma on Thursday held discussions on vaccine certification for Indian travellers with the UK envoy describing the deliberations as “excellent” and “important step forward”.
In a tweet, Ellis said neither side raised technical concerns with each other’s certification process in the technical discussions.
The talks came a day after the UK amended its new travel guidelines to include the Indian-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine in its updated list of approved COVID-19 vaccines.
“Excellent technical discussions with @rssharma3 @AyushmanNHA. Neither side raised technical concerns with each other’s certification process. An important step forward in our joint aim to facilitate travel and fully protect public health of UK and India,” he tweeted following the talks.
In his reply to the envoy’s comments, Sharma echoed Ellis’s views and talked about deepening of ties between health authorities of the two sides.
“Echoing his excellency @AlexWEllis’s views, this will be instrumental in resuming socio-economic activities between India and UK. We also look forward to deepening ties between @AyushmanNHA and @NHSX, as we collaborate to build a digital continuum of healthcare services,” Sharma tweeted.
Following India’s strong criticism over the UK’s refusal to recognise Covishield, London on Wednesday included the vaccine in its updated international travel advisory.
However, Indian travellers vaccinated with two doses of Covishield will still have to undergo 10 days of quarantine in the UK notwithstanding the amendment, UK officials clarified on Wednesday saying the inclusion of the vaccine will not make much of a difference.
“We’re clear Covishield is not a problem. The UK is open to travel and we’re already seeing a lot of people going from India to the UK, be it tourists, business people or students,” Ellis said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We have been having detailed technical discussions regarding certification, with the builders of the CoWIN app and the NHS app, about both apps. They’re happening at a rapid pace, to ensure that both countries mutually recognise the vaccine certificates issued by each other,” he had said.
According to new rules, Indian travellers who received both doses of the Covishield vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10 days.
In a strong reaction, India had on Tuesday warned of “reciprocal measures” if the UK does not address its concerns over the new travel rules relating to COVID-19 vaccine certification with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla describing these norms as “discriminatory”.
The new British rules have triggered massive criticism in India.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also took up the issue of Covishield-vaccinated travellers being required to quarantine in the UK with newly-appointed British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss at a meeting in New York on Tuesday.