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 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 a day later NHS Test and Trace pinged him.
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.”
Mr Watts was forced to spend 10 days in self isolation and could not make the family visits he had planned. His spell in quarantine ended at 11.59pm on 14 October and he flew back to Poland the following day.
“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.”
The Independent asked the Department of Health for a response on Tuesday morning, 19 October, but 24 hours later no comment had been received.