<p>Not good enough: Polish health ministry promotional image for vaccination – but the UK does not recognise the jabs as adequate </p>

Not good enough: Polish health ministry promotional image for vaccination – but the UK does not recognise the jabs as adequate

Foreign jabs aren’t good enough, government tells ‘pinged’ visitors

Exclusive: Overseas vaccines not good enough because they may be stored or administered ‘to different standards or protocols,’ says Department of Health

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 20 October 2021 16:33
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Fully vaccinated travellers to the UK “pinged” by NHS Test and Trace are being ordered to self-isolate – because their vaccines are not deemed good enough.

Each week, thousands of people arrive at British airports aboard flights on which a fellow passenger subsequently tests positive for Covid.

Those who were jabbed in the UK need not quarantine. But people who have been vaccinated abroad are forced to self-isolate because their jabs have been administered “to different standards or protocols,” according to the Department of Health.

Chris Watts, a British citizen living in Rzeszow in south-east Poland, returns to the UK for family and business reasons periodically. He arrived on 4 October, fully vaccinated with an EU digital Covid certificate. He took a “day two” PCR test as the law requires, and it was negative.

But later the same day he received a message from NHS Test and Trace. At the time he was in the Worcestershire town of Evesham, about to visit his 90-year-old mother. His father died in July this year.

Forty-five minutes before his time slot to see his mother, the NHS sent the message.

He told The Independent: “I’d been in close contact with someone Covid positive, probably a plane passenger. I thought ‘no worries, fully vaccinated means no self isolation’ as I filled in their questionnaire.

“Whoops, I was wrong. NHS Test and Trace only recognise NHS administered vaccinations. They consider everyone else, including everyone with an EU digital Covid certificates, as not fully vaccinated.”

His spell in quarantine ended at 11.59pm on 14 October. Mr Watts had originally planned to fly back the following day, but extended his stay by three days to get some essentials completed.

“I found myself in a total Kafkaesque situation where Grant Shapps’s lot are saying, ‘Come to UK, you are fully vaccinated, whereas Sajid Javid’s lot are saying I’m not fully vaccinated,” he said.

“This has huge implications for incoming tourists, family and business people thinking they are considered to be fully vaccinated – but discovering their jabs are valueless.”

In an email from NHS Track and Trace, Mr Watts was told: “The government’s rules are that the vaccine must be administered in the UK, by a recognised NHS member of staff who has been trained and authorised to administer that vaccine.

“The reasoning behind this is that elsewhere the same vaccine may be stored or administered to different standards or protocols.”

Mr Watts said: “If they really believe this they should withdraw the fully vaccinated decision for all non-UK vaccinated travellers. They can’t have their cake and eat it. That would shut down again incoming tourism and business.

“Imagine: ‘Come to the UK and you have a good chance of being locked away in the same hotel room for at least 10 days, under threat of a huge fine, being checked on by the authorities, because the people who gave you your vaccine were simply not as good as those in the UK’.

“This is classic ‘UK knows better than the rest of the world’ thinking.”

The Independent has heard from other travellers whose plans have been wrecked by the refusal of NHS Test and Trace to recognise their vaccinations.

One British family who live in Germany have decided not to return for a planned trip in November. The father said: “Given the high rates of Covid in the UK it seems very likely that someone on the flight might test positive. We were all vaccinated in Germany and cannot take the risk of having to self-isolate.

In some cases travellers have had to pay hundreds of pounds to rearrange flights, since they are banned from venturing out until the end of their quarantine.

The senior Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, said: “This is yet another ridiculous unnecessary barrier to travel only operated in Britain.”

The MP, who is on the Transport Select Committee, said: “No wonder our transport sector is only recovering at a fraction of the rate in the rest of Europe – with all the implications in terms of lost jobs, less inbound tourism and lost revenue to the Treasury as well as the cost and inconvenience to the public.

“The prime minister really needs to get a grip.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “If a person has been vaccinated abroad they are required to self-isolate if they test positive or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, even if they have received a vaccine equivalent to those approved by the MHRA [the medicines regualator] for use in the UK.

“Our domestic verification process currently only recognises the vaccination status of individuals who received their vaccine in the UK.

“We continue to keep this under review.”

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