Kenya is off UK 'red list', but vaccine certification question lingers

Kenya is off UK 'red list', but vaccine certification question lingers

Kenya inquired why the UK had not yet approved certification from travelers coming from Kenya.

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Kenya says it is happy the ‘red list’ nightmare for Kenyan travellers to the United Kingdom (UK) is over, even though authorities must now quickly negotiate an acceptable type of Covid-19 vaccine certificate.

The Nation understands that Kenyan authorities have sought further clarification from the UK on why vaccines issued in Kenya will not be recognised when the European country starts admitting travellers based on innoculation status against Covid-19 next month.

A diplomat familiar with the matter in Nairobi told the Nation that the government has inquired why the UK had not yet approved certification from travelers in Kenya despite contributing to some of the vaccine doses issued here.

“We have raised the issue with them and talks will continue so we can get an amicable solution,” the senior diplomat said without providing timelines.

“Kenya specifically asked about this matter, pointing to the fact that more than a million of these doses had come from the UK.”

Read: AstraZeneca vaccine doses from UK land at JKIA

The issue of vaccine certification will be important for travellers because the UK will be launching a new system of admission next month which will vet passengers based on their travel history and vaccination status, rather than merely testing positive or negative for the virus.

In the meantime, from Wednesday at 4am this week, Kenya will officially be removed from the ‘Red List’ of countries considered too risky for Covid-19 and be placed in Amber category.

The decision could ease cost of travel because there is now no compulsory lodging at hotels designated for quarantine. The cheapest package for hotel quarantine was about Sh35,000 per day, for 10 days.

Instead, people from Kenya will be required to isolate at their place of residence and take Covid-19 tests.

It was part of changes that will, by October 4, see the UK abolish the current ‘traffic lights’ system which categorises countries as Red, Amber or Green, depending on their Covid-19 load.

“It is great to get to the finish line of this rather unhappy episode. Wheels of travel and trade can be accelerated in earnest,” Manoah Esipisu, Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK, told the Nation on Saturday, a day after the decision was announced.

But even as Kenya celebrates, the vaccination categories could still be a burden, for now. A statement issued by the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the new system would ease costs for travellers by removing compulsory quarantine, replacing it with isolation at places of choice and being favourable to those fully vaccinated.

“If you are fully vaccinated, but do not qualify under these fully vaccinated rules, you must follow the non-vaccinated rules,” the statement said of those mainly from Africa.

From October 4, some passengers may not require Covid-19 tests before departing to the UK, but you have to carry a certificate recognised in the UK. From the end of October, fully vaccinated passengers “and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries will be able to replace their day 2 test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England.”

As at Sunday, people vaccinated under vaccine programmes in the UK, Europe, US or those vaccinated under UK’s overseas programmes will be given privileges when the new system starts. Others fully vaccinated with Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BionTech, Moderna or Janssen (Johnson &Johnson) will also be given those exemptions if innoculated by government programmes.

But the UK says vaccine certificates for these doses will be accepted only if from Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan (where there has been a mix, as well as those vaccinated under trial programmes in the US, Canada and Australia and have proof of participation.

It means that even doses given in India, the initial source of AstraZeneca vaccines (locally known as Covidshield) for Africa will be unrecognised. Also unrecognised are Pfizer, Moderna, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson, all of which are being administered in Kenya, and donated by the US and the UK among other countries.