By Chinelo Obogo
The United Kingdom has said it would consider vaccinated travelers from Nigeria, South America, UAE, India, Turkey, Jordan, Thailand, Russia and other African countries ‘unvaccinated’ from 4am on Monday, October 4.
In new changes to its international travel rules posted on its official website, the UK government said if a person was fully vaccinated for at least 14 days under an approved programme in the UK, Europe, US or any of the ‘recognised’ countries, the individual would not have to quarantine for 10 days and would only be required to carry out COVID-19 test on day two after arriving the UK.
The recognised countries are UK, Europe, US, Australia, Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Isreal, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan. Any traveler coming from any other country not on the recognised list would be considered ‘unvaccinated’ whether or not the person has been fully vaccinated and would be required to quarantine for 10 days and take COVID-19 tests on day two and eight after arriving the UK.
According to the website, “From 4am, Monday, October 4, 2021, the rules for international travel to England will change from the red, amber, green traffic light system to a single red list of countries and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world. The rules for travel from countries and terrorists not on red list will depend on your vaccination status.
“From 4am, Monday, October 4, if you have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days under an approved programme in the UK, Europe, US or UK vaccine programme overseas with a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines form a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Isreal, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan, under a formally approved COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in the US, Canada and Australia and have proof of participation (digital or paper based) from a public health body, you must book and pay for a day two COVID-19 test to be taken after arrival in England.
“You do not need to take a pre-departure test, take a day eight COVID-19 test, quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days after you arrive in England. You must be able to prove that you have been fully vaccinated with a document from a public health body.
“If you are fully vaccinated but do not qualify under these fully vaccinated rules, you must follow the unvaccinated rules by taking a pre-departure COVID-19 test three days before you travel to England, book and pay for a day two and day eight covid test to be taken after arrival in England. On arrival in England, you must quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days.”
It is understood that some of the affected countries like Brazil, Rwanda, Turkey, India and South Africa are not happy with this decision and have said the UK was yet to explain why people who were vaccinated in the ‘unrecognised’ countries would be considered ‘unvaccinated’ especially as the UK government is one of the main contributors of most of the vaccines to the African continent through the COVAX initiative.
Some aviation analyst have said the UK may have revised its travel policy because they do not have confidence in the documents proving that a person has been vaccinated as such documents could easily be obtained by non-vaccinated people.
But an informed source within the travel industry told Daily Sun that the reason for UK’s decision may be based on the type of vaccine that was given.
“UK took the Pfizer vaccines but other countries took the other ones. So, any country that did not take vaccine may quarantine on arrival. The AstraZeneca we took is produced in India while the UAE took vaccine from China. Nigeria is using QR code, which means they can trace the batch of the vaccine taken,” the source said.
Reacting to the new policy, travel and tourism operator, Mr. Ikechi Uko, said: “First, NCDC and the presidential committee on COVID-19 should comment on the issue because we do not know the efficacy of the vaccine. They should be in the best position to decide on what to do.”
National President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Susan Akporiaye, flayed the policy as discriminatory and called on the United Nations and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to call the UK to order.
“The decision is not the best because we got the vaccine from them. I don’t understand the vaccine they are rejecting but these vaccines are approved by WHO and all vaccines approved by WHO are acceptable. So, if it is good that UK took the vaccine, why is it bad that we also took the same vaccine?
“I am sure they will rescind the decision soon because as far as WHO approved the vaccine, nobody should reject it. Those who advised the country were wrong but that decision will change very soon. We should not worry about it because they are not targeting Nigeria. I think WHO and the United Nations should call them to order. What they are doing is wrong, discriminating against drugs that have been approved by WHO,” Akporiaye said.