London: Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla informed that the UK Foreign Office officials have been briefed on the current COVID-19 pandemic situation in India. He said that many big cities are practically COVID-free, and encouraged UK to review its travel ban on visitors from India.
Shringlahad arrived in the UK for a two-day visit on Friday to take cognisance of the Roadmap 2030 in bid for closer UK-India ties agreed between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson.
He also shared plans for a reciprocal vaccine certification system which will be unveiled by the Indian government soon to facilitate international travel.
During his visit, the Foreign Secretary held meetings with senior UK government representatives, including Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Sir Philip Barton and FCDO minister for South Asia Lord Tariq Ahmad.
“Mumbai, Delhi, big cities are practically free of COVID. But we can’t rest on that situation because we are constantly vigilant, telling our citizens to take precautions so that we don’t have a third wave,” said Shringla.
“I briefed them [UK officials] on the COVID situation in India. I pointed out that France had cleared visitors from India without quarantine if they are double vaccinated and have a negative test. The US has upgraded India in the travel scheme, encouraged the UK to do the same and they took note of it,” he replied adressing a question on international travel.
Currently, India remains on the travel red list of UK which effectively bans visitors from the former country, with returning citizens are required to undergo a compulsory 10-day hotel quarantine on entry to Britain.
With reference to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, not being recognised by the European Union (EU), the Foreign Secretary reiterated that AstraZeneca had applied to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on behalf of the Serum Institute of India (SII) in a letter dated May 14.
“It’s an Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured under a transfer of technology in India so there can’t be any difference in product between that produced at the Serum Institute of India (SII) or anywhere else,” said Shringla.
Over the Covishied approval, the EU has stated that they will leave it to individual member states to decide. 14 EU countries have already recognised Covishield, two of them have also recognised Covaxin suo moto.
“We are now asking all countries that you recognise our vaccine certification on a mutual reciprocal basis, recognising the integrity of that process,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla also talked about the severe second COVID-19 wave faced by India and welcomed the critical support from partner countries with essential supplies, including the UK.
“When I met my UK interlocutors, I also thanked them for the level of spontaneous support we received in the form of oxygen plants, concentrators, cylinders. One of the first flights that came in was from the UK. It was a great morale booster, which lifted confidence at a time when things looked despondent, not for any other reason but the short period of time when there was a gap between demand and supply,” he recalled.
Providing details on the current situation in India, the Foreign Secretary said that India had now reached a point where it is able to supply the excess liquid oxygen and important medication like Remdesivir to neighbouring countries in need, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand.
(With Agency Inputs)