Covid: 'Up to five million Brits may be unable to visit Europe as EU does not recognise India produced AZ jabs'

Could European holidays soon be off the cards for many UK travellers? Credit: PA

Up to five million Brits may not be allowed to travel into Europe this summer because their Covid-19 vaccines are not recognised by the EU's medicines regulator, it has been reported.

The Telegraph reported that Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) are not yet authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and so do not qualify for the European Union’s digital vaccine passport scheme.

The hitch could leave thousands of Britons turned away at EU border crossings when the batch numbers on their vaccines are checked digitally, the newspaper said.

However, EU countries can individually choose which vaccines they recognise, a decision likely to be made by some countries which rely on UK tourism as an integral part of their economies.

Moreover, the EU's digital passport scheme will be phased in over the next six weeks, meaning any issues are not likely to immediately affect British travellers.

Currently, the only European countries on the UK's travel green list are Malta, Madeira and the Balearic Islands, along with Gibraltar.

Some other European countries do allow UK travellers into them, but they are on the government's amber list, meaning returnees to the UK must isolate at home for 10 days. The government does not recommend travel to these countries.

Green list travel: What you need to know

What are the latest countries added to the UK's green list?

Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Croatia and Taiwan are the latest countries to be added, as of 4am on 19 June.

What does it mean when a country is on the green list?

People who are travelling to countries on the green list will still need to take a Covid test up to 72 hours before they return to the UK and a single PCR test on or before day two of their arrival into the UK - but you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

Children aged four and under are exempt from the test.

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Do I need to quarantine or take a test on arrival to Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta or Madeira?

Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a similar green, amber and red travel system to that of the UK.

The UK is currently amber on Bulgaria's list.

This means if you are entering Bulgaria from the UK you must present one of three documents.

First, a vaccination certificate indicating an approved vaccine schedule has been completed at least 14 days before arrival.

Second, a document showing a positive result from a PCR or rapid antigen test for people who have recovered from Covid-19.

Third, a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before entry into Bulgaria or a rapid antigen test performed up to 48 hours before entry.Additionally, at least 5% of all arrivals from amber countries will be subject to a rapid antigen test at random.

Croatia

To avoid quarantine in Croatia you must present a negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test, or proof of vaccination, or a doctor’s certificate of recovery following a positive test result between 11 and 180 days prior.

To enter via proof of vaccination you must have had either a two-dose vaccine course from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Gamaleya or Sinopharm or a certificate of receipt of a one-dose vaccine such as the Johnson & Johnson jab.

Croatia will accept the NHS Covid pass both as a letter or via the app.Children under 12 are exempt from the requirements.

If you have not got any of the accepted ways of gaining entry, a test can be taken upon arrival in Croatia but you will have to self-isolate until you have the result.

Malta

No - the only reason you would need to quarantine in Malta is if you do not have proof of a negative Covid test result.

The UK is on Malta's amber list, which means passengers (everyone aged 5 and above) arriving in the country will need to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate before boarding flights to Malta. You will also need to show the physical copy of a negative Covid test when you land in Malta. The swab test will need to be carried out up to 72 hours (maximum) prior to arrival in Malta. If a negative PCR test is not presented, a swab test on arrival or a 14-day quarantine period is mandatory on arrival. All passengers must complete a Public Health Travel Declaration Form and Passenger Locator Form. You must show both forms to airline officials when leaving the UK and health officials when you arrive in Malta.Everyone arriving (and departing) from Malta has their temperature checked. If you have a high temperature, you will need to take a swab test. Madeira

To enter Madeira, you must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test or have had both doses of the Covid vaccine at least 15 days prior to travel.

Passengers must take a PCR test 72 hours before travel and upload the test result - children aged 12 and under are exempt. If you have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, you will be exempt from showing a PCR test on entry and Madeira will accept your NHS letter to demonstrate your vaccination status.

All passengers (except for children aged 12 and under) will need to complete and submit a traveller questionnaire.

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What other countries are already on the green list?

The addition of Malta, Balearic Islands and Madeira will be a welcome addition for travellers returning to the UK, as the majority of countries previously on the green list are closed to international tourists, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Here are the green list countries:

  • Australia

  • Brunei

  • Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Barbados, Dominicana, Granada, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands)

  • Falkland Islands

  • Faroe Islands

  • Gibraltar

  • Iceland

  • Israel and Jerusalem

  • Malta

  • Madeira

  • New Zealand

  • Singapore

  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

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The EU Digital Covid Certificate, which launched on Thursday, does not recognise a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine called Covishield, produced by the SII because it is yet to receive approval in Europe.

The EU's coronavirus passport scheme allows citizens living within the bloc, as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, to show they have been vaccinated, have tested negative for Covid or recently recovered, to travel freely between different countries without having to quarantine or undergo more tests.

It will be phased in over the next six weeks, meaning travellers to green list EU countries are unlikely to be affected just yet.

The government intends for the NHS app to soon be integrated into the EU scheme, allowing UK citizens to prove their coronavirus or vaccine status, once travel between more countries is allowed.

By scanning a QR code, the EU system pulls up information including the traveller's name, date of birth and vaccine details, including batch numbers.

The Blue Lagoon in Comino off Malta Credit: Malta.com

The apps will allow batch numbers of Brits' vaccines to be checked digitally when they want to enter an EU country.

However, up to five million doses of the version of the AZ jab in question have been administered in the UK and are identifiable by the vaccine batch numbers (4120Z001, 4120Z002, 4120Z003) included on recipients’ vaccine cards and in the Covid travel pass available via the NHS app, the Telegraph said.

Only vaccines approved by the EMA are included in the EU app, though individual member states are free to accept other vaccines if they choose.

The EMA approved vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and the version of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in the UK or Europe, which is sold under the brand name Vaxzevria.

“Entry into the EU should be allowed to people fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines authorised in the EU,” a spokesperson from the European Commission told the Telegraph.

“Member states are… not required to issue certificates for a vaccine that is not authorised on their territory.”

The UK has used the brand name Vaxzevria on all UK medical records where the AstraZeneca vaccine has been used, but up to five million doses are actually the Indian-made Covishield version, the Telegraph reported. The doses remain identifiable by their batch numbers.

The newspaper said the Department of Health has not given a figure of how many SII manufactured AstraZeneca jabs have been administered in the UK but said it believed up to five million doses had been imported earlier in the year.

“As we continue to cautiously reopen international travel, NHS Covid Pass will be a key service that allows people to demonstrate their Covid-19 vaccination status,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health told the Telegraph.

They added that all AstraZeneca doses used in the UK appeared under the name Vaxzevria in medical records and on the NHS app, even if they had come from India. Only the batch numbers, also included in the NHS Covid pass, identify them.

“All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria,” said the spokesman.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved in the US, meaning a similar issue could face many UK travellers wanting to travel there.

The news from the Telegraph comes just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that having two doses of a Covid vaccine will be "a liberator" and will "enable people to travel", amid speculation about quarantine being lifted for double-jabbed people who are returning from amber list countries.

Mr Johnson will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.

The PM told reporters: "I’m very confident that the double jabs will be a liberator and they will enable people to travel.

"We’ll be setting out a lot more about the detail of that in the course of July, in the course of the next few days, about how we see it working but there’s no doubt at all that once you’ve got two jabs you are in a much better position."

He warned, however, that this year "will not be like any other year because of Covid".

"People shouldn't expect that it will be completely hassle free."

His comments come amid reports from The Times that the government is aiming to introduce quarantine-free travel for people with two vaccines by July 26.



However, holidaymakers may still face difficulty when travelling with many countries still imposing quarantine on tourists from the UK.

One of the new countries on the green list for travel, Malta, has dealt a blow to Brits hoping to go on their summer holidays by saying it will not accept the NHS app as proof of vaccination.


Stay up to date with the changing travel situation in the UK and abroad with news, information and advice at itv.com/holidaynews.


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