COVID AND TRAVEL INEQUITIES
It seems a rose will not smell the same if called by another name.
In India, a lot of barbs are thrown at ‘babus’ across the world. The unwieldy power that staid bureaucrats exert on hapless citizenry often throws up the implementation of the law or regulations in letter and not spirit. Unfortunately this babu-dom is universal.
Covid has laid bare a host of inequities, false narratives and fault-lines in policies across the world resulting in unequal practices impacting travel opportunities.
Having arrived in London just last week, these hiccups for me are just too evident to be ignored. The Covid protocols and vaccine regulations are glaring in their unfairness. Some glitches might be intrinsic to the process of opening up of lockdowns. However, for an industry based on free and unfettered movement of people, travellers especially from India have to undergo needless restrictions regarding their vaccine status. Indians with two jabs of the same vaccine that Britons are getting are still assumed to be unvaccinated. This situation could be a reason for comic relief if it were not downright expensive as well.
A few days back Covishield jabs received by vaccinated travellers from India was finally accepted as kosher but the hiccup in Britain continues to prevail. After serious interventions at very high levels in the foreign office, this disparity was removed but the requirement for a 10 day isolation continues as we go to press. The ostensible reason forwarded is that documentation papers for the Indian vaccinations are ‘unclear’.
Unofficially stated, the argument implies that there were doubts of certificates being fudged or forged. To ensure safety, a Covid test on second and eight day of arrival is hence taken as absolute proof covid negativity despite the two jabs of the same vaccine that is approved in UK and rest of Europe as well. That there is a cost attached to it is beside the point.
That the Indian CoWin certification is totally digitalized and comes with a QR code didn’t find any takers. Rather odd.
It took a potential for a diplomatic brouhaha that changed breached the bureaucratic wall for recognising Covishield. Now the new barrier of mandatory self-isolation remains.
Those wanting to needle UK over this hiccup might have a field day and rightly so, but there is another side to their focus too. The exceptional follow-up, guidance and support that the NHS department appears to extend to travellers stifled by these unfair rules are to be experienced to be believed. They even called to ask if they could send anyone for a chat in case one was feeling too isolated!
The sub text of this story is that a slow bureaucracy can turn speed breaker for the tourism industry- not just for global travellers but also their host countries as well.
The views expressed in the column are of the author, and may or may not be endorsed by the publication.