By BRIA KING
ALL FULLY VACCINATED persons from St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) who wish to travel to the United Kingdom (UK),will be treated as being unvaccinated and therefore will not be eligible for any quarantine exemption.
This is due to the new travel protocols that came into effect yesterday, October 4 in the UK, which has done away with the previous traffic light system of green, amber and red list in classifying countries.
Under the changes, the green and amber lists have become obsolete, leaving only a single red list.
Testing rules have also been eased for people travelling from non-red listed destinations, who have been vaccinated in the UK, the EU, the US or any of the other recognised countries with an approved vaccination programme.
Of these, only three CARICOM countries are listed: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Dominica.
Additionally, to be considered fully vaccinated, a traveller under the above circumstances must have had a complete course of either the Oxford Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines at least 14 days before arrival.
Formulations of these vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, also qualify as approved vaccines.
“…The UK, like some countries in the world, is trying to move forward with their travel arrangements rather than having these traffic lights systems, whereby vaccinated travellers still have to sort of undergo all the different challenges that other people who have not vaccinated face when they travel. So there needs to be some sort of system whereby to directly manage this, that it’s easier for the vaccinated people to travel in the world,” Steve Moore, the Resident British Commission told SEARCHLIGHT in an interview.
He said the new system is a way of managing risk.
He noted however that the shift away from the traffic light system is not “overly straightforward” as there has to be an assessment of vaccine certification programmes in the various countries.
Moore further explained that it is likely for other countries to be included in the approved list, once the relevant assessments take place, a decision is made and approved by relevant authorities in the UK.
“As far as St Vincent and the Grenadines is concerned, I’m working with the local government here…closely and we’re building up that information and indeed — I mean, in communication with my colleagues in London and sending them things this week. So we’re building up the information and understanding of what the situation is in SVG,” he said.
The Resident British High Commission said that there is an increasing norm across the world for the use of electronic certification where certificates come with barcodes that can be scanned to view ethe relevant information.
Moore added that Barbados, for instance, uses such a system.
But he hastened to add that St Vincent and the Grenadines has also been working to implement a similar format to their vaccine certification.
“We’re trying for, my office — and I personally am trying to get SVG to be looked at as quickly as possible so that it won’t just be Antigua, Barbados and Dominica on the list for this region that qualifies for quarantine exemptions for vaccinated travellers,” Moore told SEARCHLIGHT.
As it stands now, persons travelling from SVG to England, are required to take a COVID-19 test no later than three days before travel.
They are also required to book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 COVID-19 tests to be taken after arrival in England. Travellers are required to quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days .
There is however, a possibility for early release through the taking of a Day 5 COVID-19 test.
According to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the three Caribbean countries on the approved list in this current transitional period, were the only three countries in the region that were on the green list and have been “grandfathered into this new system and no other Caribbean country”.
The prime minister, who was speaking on radio last Sunday, said that his government has been working very closely with the British representative here in relation to the matter.
“I, myself, I spoke to him and we have sent a lot of information to them about what we are doing so I want to assure everybody that work is being done in that regard because as you know, those of us in the region, to hear that a particular country was on the green list and we were on an amber list when our situation was much better than theirs, will just tell you that when bureaucrats make these decisions far away, and not close to the events, not close to the happenings, they’ll often get it wrong…” he said on WeFM’s “Issue at Hand” radio programme.
In the meantime, the prime minister said local systems, particularly the information system, is in the process of being perfected.
Gonsalves revealed that a firm has been hired in this regard, as local health authorities push to implement an electronic vaccination card, complete with QR codes.
In the interim, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Simone Keizer-Beache told SEARCHLIGHT that persons travelling to England, or any other country, can make a request to be issued a vaccine certificate with a QR Code.
When asked about the likelihood of exemptions for travellers who receive this certificate, Keizer-Beache said the ministry has submitted information to the British government about the availability of this certificate with QR code “and we are hopeful that they will look favourably on us”.