India suspends all flights from UK from 23-31 Dec amid fears of more infectious coronavirus variant found in Britain

Earlier, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said the government is fully alert and there is no need to panic. The Union health ministry has called an urgent meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group on Monday to discuss the new strain, which has led to a surge in the infection rate in the UK.

FP Staff December 21, 2020 16:23:17 IST
India suspends all flights from UK from 23-31 Dec amid fears of more infectious coronavirus variant found in Britain

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India on Monday announced the temporary suspension of flights originating from the United Kingdom amid growing concerns over the new potent strain of the coronavirus spreading at a much faster pace in parts of England.

In a series of tweets, the Ministry of Civil Aviation informed that considering the prevailing situation in the UK,  the Centre has decided to suspend flights originating from the UK from 11.59 pm on 22 December to 11.59 pm on 31 December.

"As a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or flights which are reaching India before 22 December at 23.59 hrs) should be subject to mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the airports concerned.," the ministry said in another tweet.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter that passengers who are found COVID-positive would be sent for institutional quarantine set up by the states or Union territories (UTs). "Those found negative should be advised to isolate at home for 7 days and will be medically monitored by the states/UTs," Puri added.

Till date, the rules stated that if an international passenger had a COVID-negative certificate from a test done 72 hours prior to the journey, he or she need not undergo COVID-19 test again on arrival at the Indian airport.

Earlier, in an official order, the Union health ministry told the Ministry of Civil Aviation the new coronavirus variant has been spreading rapidly in UK while cases have been declining in India. India Today quoted the order and reported that 'the spread of the new strain calls for enhanced measures'.

 The Union health ministry called an urgent meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group on Monday to discuss the new strain, which has led to a surge in the infection rate in the UK.
Several other countries, including  France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Bulgaria, the Irish Republic, Turkey and Canada, have already banned flights from the UK with the British government warning that the potent new strain of the virus was "out of control" and imposing a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday.

According to The Hindu, Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended all international passenger flights for citizens and residents over fears about the fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus . The Kingdom’s interior ministry said the one-week flight ban may be extended “until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear.”

Other countries and territories to announce restrictions on UK travel include Hong Kong, Israel, Iran, Croatia, Argentina, Chile, Morocco and Kuwait.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had urged the Centre to ban flights from the UK.

"When coronavirus had started spreading, we were late in banning international flights, which had led to a drastic spike in cases," said Gehlor and also asked the government to ban flights from other European countries.

Earlier, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said the government is fully alert and there is no need to panic.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday said that the data suggests the new strain could be "up to 70 percent more transmissible" and announced a "stay at home" order for London and southeast England.

Under the new restrictions, non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, bowling alleys, casinos, hairdressers and nail bars will be closed in London and other affected regions, including Kent, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

However, Johnson had stressed that "there's no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness," or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

With inputs from agencies

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