As more of the world gets vaccinated, many jurisdictions are reopening travel, albeit in a carefully calibrated manner. In announcements made over the past few days, several popular destinations for Indians have been opened to some categories of travellers, while one nation — the United Kingdom — has angered India by a seemingly arbitrary change of rules that is discriminatory to vaccinated Indians.
Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, said on Monday that foreigners will be allowed into the country if they can show proof of full vaccination before boarding a plane to the US, and a negative Covid-19 test within three days of arriving in America.
However, details on key aspects such as which visa types will be issued, and which specific vaccines will be considered as capable of inoculating “fully”, are not known yet.
Zients was reported as saying international travel was critical to connect families and friends, for businesses, and for open exchange of ideas and culture, but it was not clear if tourism was being opened up as well. The New York Times report noted that “the halt to the 18-month ban on travel from 33 countries” including India, “could help rejuvenate a US tourism industry that has been crippled by the pandemic”.
On the issue of “full vaccination”, The NYT report said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers people as “fully inoculated two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine”.
The report quoted Thomas Skinner, a CDC spokesman, as saying that people who have been jabbed with vaccines listed by the World Health Organization, such as AstraZeneca, too would be considered fully vaccinated. What has not been clarified is whether Covishield, the Made-in-India variant of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, also qualifies.
After completely banning flights from countries including India in January, the US had allowed student cohorts to fly into the country for the commencement of the fall semester.
Starting Tuesday, Canada has allowed direct flights to and from India, and relaxed the third-country RT-PCR requirement that Indian travellers were subject to while taking a stopover flight to Canada.
Canada had banned all flights from India months ago, after passengers with pre-travel negative RT-PCR certificates returned positive tests on arrival.
The Thailand Embassy in New Delhi announced on Monday that it would resume issuing some types of visas for permitted non-Thai nationals.
These include visas for students, those with a work permit, those with a residency permit, etc. It is not issuing medical visas or tourist visas as yet.
The UK has tweaked its rules to do away, with effect from October 4, with the ‘amber’ list in its ‘traffic light system’ for international travel. India is on the amber list, which mandates a set of testing and quarantine requirements.
Once the ‘traffic light’ goes, the UK will have only a ‘red’ list with mandatory quarantine requirements even for those who are fully vaccinated, if the vaccine is not on an authorised list. As of now, the India-made Covishield and Covaxin vaccines are not on the list. India has protested the discrimination, and the two countries are talking to try and resolve the issue.
A number of countries including the UAE, Germany, Spain, Maldives, and Turkey are allowing Indian travellers.
In the run-up to Expo 2020 in Dubai, which kicks off on October 1, the UAE has started issuing tourist visas, including to Indian citizens.
Earlier this month, the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi announced that travellers flying to Turkey from India will no longer have to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival as long as they were fully vaccinated.
Last month, Germany reclassified India to “high (Covid) incidence areas” — down from the higher travel restriction level of “virus variant areas”. With this, it removed the entry ban for travellers from India.
Spain is allowing fully-vaccinated tourists from India.
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