Story at a glance:
- The British government’s new COVID-19 travel rules do not consider travelers from countries like India, those in Latin America and those in Africa to be “fully vaccinated.”
- Travelers from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, or South Korea, for instance, are considered “fully vaccinated” and do not have to quarantine.
- Many are outraged by the policy and worried about the messaging.
England’s new COVID-19 travel rules are sparking confusion and outrage around the world, as the U.K. will now let vaccinated travelers in from certain countries but not others -- namely from India, countries in Latin America and countries in Africa.
The British government announced the new rules on Friday, with the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps billing it as a “simpler, more straightforward system” that will allow “more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry,” The Associated Press (AP) reports.
Under the rules, “fully vaccinated” travels can skip quarantine and take fewer tests. But the government only recognizes vaccinations administered by select countries. 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, according to The AP.
Vaccinated travelers from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, South Korea or a country within the European Union, for instance, are considered “fully vaccinated” and exempt from quarantine, according to The Guardian.
But vaccinated travelers from other countries, including India and those in Latin America and Africa, are not considered fully vaccinated and must quarantine for 10 days. This is even the case for a country like Kenya, which received hundreds of thousands of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the U.K., according to The AP.
Critics are calling the travel policy discriminatory, illogical and harmful.
In South Africa, the Medical Association chairwoman, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, said citizens were being “discriminated against” and called the new rules “totally unacceptable,” The AP reports.
On Monday, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor said “It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine,” and announced he was pulling out of scheduled events and an upcoming book tour in the U.K.
“Why should Indians be deemed to be lesser breeds than others?” he wrote on The Quint news website, according to The AP.
“There isn’t a single person I have spoken to who isn’t angry about this. People are perplexed,” a Latin American diplomat told The Guardian.
“How can a Pfizer or Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine that is administered [in Latin America] not be sufficient for someone to be allowed in? I just don’t see how this can be acceptable. I simply cannot get my head around it,” they told the outlet. “I cannot explain what is behind this – I just know that it is very, very, very unfair.”
Others are pointing out that the policy may further the growing problem of vaccine hesitancy.
A West African diplomat slammed the policy as discriminatory and added: “[But] it’s not even the discrimination that concerns me the most, it’s the message it sends out,” The Guardian reported.
“All around the world we’re struggling with vaccine hesitancy. There’s all sorts of fake news. When you say, ‘We are not going to accept the vaccine from Africa’, you lend credence to these kinds of theories. It’s only going to create a situation where it allows the pandemic to be prolonged,” the diplomat said.
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