NEW DELHI :

National Health Authority chairman R.S. Sharma and UK high commissioner Alex Ellis discussed vaccine certification for Indian travellers on Thursday, with the envoy describing the talks as “an important step forward”.

The discussions came a day after the UK government added India’s Covishield to its list of approved covid-19 vaccines, though the two sides are yet to reach common ground on certification so that fully vaccinated Indian travellers can skip a 10-day quarantine on arrival.

Ellis said in a tweet that neither side had raised technical concerns about each other’s certification process.

“Excellent technical discussions with @rssharma3 @AyushmanNHA. Neither side raised technical concerns with each other’s certification process. An important step forward in our joint aim to facilitate travel and fully protect public health of UK and India,” Ellis tweeted.

Sharma responded with a tweet that the discussions will help in the resumption of socioeconomic activities between the two sides.

“Echoing his excellency @AlexWEllis’s views, this will be instrumental in resuming socioeconomic activities between India and UK. We also look forward to deepening ties between @AyushmanNHA and @NHSX, as we collaborate to build a digital continuum of healthcare services,” Sharma said.

Both countries have stepped up efforts to sort out the vaccine row, which emerged when overall bilateral relations are on the upswing. The vaccine certification issue has become a problem as growing numbers of Indians, especially students, are travelling to the UK.

On Tuesday, India had warned it could resort to reciprocal measures as the controversy around UK’s new travel rules, which come into force on 4 October, sparked allegations of racism. Ellis had on Wednesday attributed the issue to a significant shift in the UK’s travel policy that was announced on 17 September and made it clear that Covishield is “not a problem”. He declined to set a deadline for resolving the matter and said things are moving “at a rapid pace” on recognizing India’s vaccine certification.

Sharma, who supervises the functioning of the CoWIN platform, said on Wednesday that officials from both sides had two meetings this month to discuss technical aspects of each other’s certification systems and the discussions were now closed.

“In the first (meeting), the British high commissioner met me on September 2 and the second one was yesterday (September 21) between the technical teams. We made them understand how our system worked and they explained the functioning of their system to us. Both these meetings were quite fruitful,” Sharma said.

The discussions had focused on certification done through the CoWIN app, the security of the system, data sharing between the two sides, and reconciling the CoWIN system with the NHS Covid Pass developed by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), said people familiar with developments, who asked not to be named.

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