In a big win for India, nine European countries have cleared Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, amid a row over vaccines accepted for a “Green Passport” allowing free travel in the region. These countries include Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Estonia and Switzerland.
Under the Green Passport, people who have received vaccines authorised by the European Medical Agency (EMA) will be exempted from travel restrictions inside the 27-member European Union. The EMA, the EU’s top medical body, has approved only four vaccines so far and Covishield and Covaxin are not on the list.
The induction of Covishield in the Green Passport has come as a major respite for many Indians wanting to go to Europe. The European Union has started the Green Pass system from 1 July.
However, the EU has made it clear that “member states may decide to extend this (the certificate) also to EU travellers that received another vaccine”.
Under these rules, Indians, who have been inoculated with Covishield or Covaxin, may be subject to quarantine if they travel to the EU nations, unless these vaccines are cleared by the respective countries.
The softening in EU’ stance may be attributed to displeasure shown by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) over travel hassles faced by Indians in the pandemic era.
On Wednesday, sources in the MEA said that India will begin a reciprocal policy when it comes to exemption from quarantine. This would mean that unless the European Union accepts those vaccinated with Covishield and Covaxin, people from the EU will also face mandatory quarantine upon arrival in India.
India’s first approved Covid vaccine, Covishield, is manufactured in India by Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker. Covishield was approved by the Central government for emergency use in February. Of the three vaccines available so far, India has inoculated the maximum number of people with Covishield only. So far, out of the total 33 crore jabs given in the country, the Covishield vaccine has been administered to more than 28 crore people.
On the other hand, Covaxin, India’s only indigenous vaccine, has not yet received WHO approval. Therefore, it has not applied for EMA authorisation. Sputnik V and Moderna are the other two vaccines which are approved for use in India and by the WHO.
In the meantime, new Covid-19 cases saw another jump on Thursday with 48,786 more people testing positive in the last 24 hours, said the Union health ministry. The number stood at 45,951 the previous day. With the addition of new infections, the cumulative tally has reached 30,411,634. Further, the number of new fatalities has gone upwards too as 1,005 succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours. The death toll due to coronavirus in India now stands at 399,459.
On the brighter side, daily recoveries outnumbered fresh infections for the 49th day straight with 61,588 people getting discharged between Wednesday and Thursday. This took the total number of discharges to 2,94,88,918. As a result, the active tally has fallen to 5,23,257, declining by 13,807 and constitutes 1.72% of the total infections.