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England’s new Covid travel rules are strangely selective

According to England’s updated travel policy, being considered ‘fully vaccinated’ and exempt from quarantine isn’t as simple as having been double jabbed.

What was proposed as ‘a new simplified system’ that would make international travel ‘easier’ is now causing global outrage for being xenophobic.

As the new travel rules were unveiled, a clear pattern emerged, where double-vaxxed travellers from countries in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East were listed as approved.

However, those vaccinated in countries within Latin America, Africa, and India are not recognised as eligible for quarantine-free travel. Quite peculiar, if you consider the fact that vaccines were supplied to these regions from the UK itself.

Britain has provided considerable funding to the Covax program, which obtains, delivers, and helps to administer doses of the coronavirus vaccine to countries who were unable to purchase sufficient vaccine supplies before the major powers of the UK and US scooped them up.

By forcing citizens who have received these Covax-supplied jabs to quarantine upon arrival in England, it sends the message that these doses are not equally recognised or trusted to be effective.

How are these rules damaging?

The rules suggest that to skip self-isolation, travellers are required to have received both doses of the vaccine under British, American, or European programs.

Not only does this point to discrimination against other countries, but it could fuel vaccine hesitancy amongst populations who may feel that their healthcare system is not recognised as ‘good enough’ by other powerful nations.

Across the world, experts and political leaders are weighing in. To many, it looks like poorer nations are having the door slammed in their faces.

‘When you say, ‘we are not going to accept the vaccine from Africa’ you lend credence to these kinds of theories,’ said a West African diplomat, in reference to circulating speculations about vaccine effectiveness.

In conjunction to this, critics are calling the rules ‘illogical and harmful’ and not rooted in any medical science. André Siqueira, a disease specialist in Rio de Janeiro, said ‘there is simply no plausible justification as to why they accept vaccines given in certain countries but not from others.’

Fully vaccinated academics from red-list countries are also concerned that the harsh quarantine rules will create obstacles for engaging with global meetings – more specifically, COP26 which takes place in a little over a month’s time.

Has the vaccine become a political weapon?

Comparatively, no other vaccine is treated this way. Jabs for Yellow Fever, Hepatitis, and Polio are recognised internationally – without any discrepancies. But from its very conception, the coronavirus vaccine has heightened the realities of inequality and elitism between countries across the world.

First with vaccine nationalism, where rich countries hoarded hundreds of thousands of spare doses while poorer nations went without supplies, affecting their ability to lift restrictions, return to normal life, and boost economies back to pre-pandemic levels.

The profound financial impacts of slow vaccine rollout to low and lower-middle income countries are expected to be long lasting.

And now, it appears that wealthier countries are cherry-picking which vaccinated populations have access to their national borders without a strong basis of scientific reasoning.

UK government representatives have claimed decisions are made in the interest of public health by taking into account ‘wider considerations.’ What these wider considerations are, exactly, have yet to be clarified.

Shashi Tharoor, an Indian politician, has said that he will not being attending a series of meetings in England to protest the decision he labelled as ‘offensive’. India’s Foreign Secretary has also threatened to ‘impose reciprocal measures’ on English travellers if the rules aren’t modified.

Is this just pettiness or obvious discrimination against poorer regions? With no explicit answers on offer and travel restrictions changing almost monthly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see England double-back in the face of this global backlash.

 

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