Covid-19 blow to firms recruiting Indian workers

A Covid check at an airport in India during the pandemic
Photo: Shutterstock

India’s inclusion on the Covid red list is a blow to UK health, professional services and IT businesses, who risk missing out on highly skilled Indian workers, according to one City law firm.

With 350,000 people a day currently being infected by Covid-19 – the world’s highest every daily tally – India is experiencing a horrifying surge in deaths with its medical services overwhelmed and running short of essential supplies.

The UK added India to its red list on Friday leading to a rush of people looking to enter the UK before strict quarantine rules were imposed.

The Home Office’s website states: “Despite the current travel measures, there is a high volume of travel between India and the UK, and we have already seen 103 cases of the variant under investigation (VUI) in the UK.”

Since 4am on Friday international visitors who left or transited through India in the previous 10 days have been refused entry into England. Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights in the UK (including long-term visa holders), are now being allowed to enter and they must stay in a government-approved quarantine facility for 10 days. Contrary to popular assumptions flights between India and the UK are continuing.

Individuals in sectors including medicine, IT and telecommunications will only be exempted from the ban on travel from India to the UK, if they can show they are conducting “essential work”. However, these individuals will still be forced to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days after arriving from India, creating a major disincentive for staff to come and work in the NHS.

Chetal Patel, partner at City law firm Bates Wells, said: “These necessary restrictions on Indian nationals means the UK is potentially missing out on highly skilled workers who are effectively banned from coming into the country. We’ve had multinational clients having to put a halt on the start dates for some Indian nationals as the government’s addition of India to the red list came at such short notice.

“Keeping Covid under control in the UK has to come first. However, to help UK employers the government needs to review the red list ban regularly and lift it as soon as it is safe to do so.”

She added: “Even with exemptions, the requirement to quarantine in a hotel at a considerable cost could serve as a deterrent to medical professionals. Indian nationals are a vital part of the UK’s healthcare system, comprising 42% of of those applying for a Health and Care Worker visa. To stem the flow of workers at a time when the NHS is severely understaffed is problematic to say the least.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been due to visit India this week but the surge in Covid cases led to the trip’s cancellation. He and India leader Narendra Modi were to have launched what a Downing Street statement said were “ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India”.

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