Why are we locking up double-jabbed international students?

Well this is a bit of a mess.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

It was already difficult enough trying to discern the rules facing international students in relation to arrival quarantining.

The position as I type is that if you’re arriving into England from a country that isn’t on the red list, you can avoid having to do that “stay for a week or so in a Premier Inn” thing as long as you’ve been “fully vaccinated”.

In this case, for these rules, “fully vaccinated” means that you have had a complete course of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in England, and the vaccine must have been administered under either the UK vaccination programme, or an overseas vaccination programme with an “approved proof of vaccination” for travel to the UK.

That list is nowhere near as long (or straightforward) as it could be.

But that’s the rules on arrival. The rules on having to self-isolate in relation to contact with someone who’s had or has Covid are also an issue.

For a start, if you’re an international student caught by that “approved proof of vaccination” problem, that means you may well be required to self-isolate at various points throughout the term unless and until some sort of deal is done with the county you’re from over proof.

But it’s worse than that. Since 16 August, if you live in the same household as someone with Covid-19 you have not been required to self-isolate if you are “fully vaccinated”.

The problem is that even if you have proof for the “arrival in the UK” rules, the statutory instrument for the change to the “if someone in your household has Covid” rules defines “fully vaccinated” in a different way – and only exempts you if your vaccine doses were administered in the United Kingdom!

In other words, international students aren’t exempt from the household self-isolation rules even if they have actually been double-jabbed and have recognised proof of being double-jabbed! As for what counts as a household in halls…

Insert facepalm emoji here.

I’m sure international students really appreciate forking out that £470 immigration healthcare surcharge in this context. Maybe this was all planned as is deliberately, but it does feel like this £23bn export industry has been something of an afterthought when it comes to these rules.

By the way – we appear to have the same problem in Wales (at least if we go by this guidance, I’ve not checked the actual legislation in Wales) although my initial reading of the Scotland position suggests that the definition of “authorised vaccine” refers back to the definition in the arrival rules, which suggests that this may not be an issue there.

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