Forcing vaccinated international students to isolate ‘unfair’

Overseas students must still isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a Covid-19 case, even if they are double-jabbed with a UK-approved vaccine

十月 8, 2021
Sad young woman sitting on the window at home isolated, watching out. Coronavirus quarantine concept.
Source: iStock

It is “unfair” that international students vaccinated abroad, with a UK-approved vaccine, are being forced to isolate if identified as being a close contact of someone with Covid-19, unlike their UK peers, universities said.

The Westminster government has allowed into the UK fully vaccinated international arrivals from all but “red list” countries without having to isolate, a big win for international students studying in the UK – and their universities.

However, government rules mean that if a student is pinged by NHS Track and Trace or the NHS Covid App and they were vaccinated abroad, they will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

This is the case even if the vaccine they received is approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Failure to comply with self-isolation may result in a fine, starting from £1,000, the government guidance states.

People who have been fully vaccinated in the UK are exempted from self-isolation if identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19. The rule was introduced earlier this year after thousands of UK residents were kept at home during the “pingdemic”.

There were reports throughout the 2020-21 academic year of students being forced to repeatedly isolate in their halls of residence because they came into contact with someone with coronavirus.

Vanessa Beever, senior director of Fordham University in London, said there “seems to be a real discrepancy in the approach to international students: we recognise their vaccination status to let them into the country, but don’t recognise it once they are here”.

“It does seem unfair that, despite being vaccinated with an approved vaccine, an international student would have to isolate, when a home student wouldn’t have to,” she said. “It seems unfair and unnecessarily disruptive to their studies, particularly if they have to isolate again and again, and especially after all the disruption they’ve already been through.

“I hope it’s just an oversight that can be swiftly rectified. We’d all like to see international students returning to institutions at levels seen before the pandemic and do not want this to discourage them.”

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said the organisation was “working with government to raise and address a number of challenges currently faced by international students vaccinated outside the UK”.

“There are outstanding questions around why students who have received an approved Covid-19 vaccination (as categorised for entry into England) are required to self-isolate if identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19,” she said.

“While we appreciate that this is a complex issue, this position is not in line with current entry procedures, and we continue to press government departments to clarify the situation.”

The Department for Health and Social Care said the “the rules continue to be kept under review taking into account clinical judgement on risk and the prevalence of Covid-19 both within England, the UK and overseas”.



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