New coronavirus strain scare: India-UK flights suspended till January 7
India on Wednesday extended the ban on flights to and from the United Kingdom until January 7 next year. The Centre had earlier suspended India-UK flights until December 31 but has now extended it by one week. The decision comes amid the alarm over the new, highly contagious strain of coronavirus discovered in the UK and found among people who returned from there.
The announcement regarding the temporary ban on flights between India and the UK was made by Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday. "Decision has been taken to extend the temporary suspension of flights to and from the UK till 7 January 2021. Thereafter strictly regulated resumption will take place for which details will be announced shortly," he tweeted.
Decision has been taken to extend the temporary suspension of flights to from the UK till 7 January 2021.— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) December 30, 2020
Thereafter strictly regulated resumption will take place for which details will be announced shortly.
To recall, last week, India had announced the suspension of all UK flights until December-end after the detection of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK sparked widespread concern followed by travel restrictions across the world. Notably, between India and the UK, four airlines—Air India, Vistara, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic—operate 67 flights weekly with around 2,000-2,500 passengers flying daily on these flights.
According to the Union Health Ministry, 20 people who have returned to India from the UK have tested positive for the new coronavirus strain. Between November 25 and December 23 (midnight), as many as 33,000 passengers arrived at different airports in India from the UK. The government said all these passengers were being traced and RT-PCR tests were being conducted by the respective states.
"We went back to November 25 and did contact tracing and gene sequencing of passengers who had directly or indirectly come from UK since that date," Minister Puri said. While not much is currently known about the new coronavirus variant, researchers say the mutant virus is much more transmissible. However, the current vaccines should be effective against the new strain, they say.
The Health Ministry earlier stated, "Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travelers, family contacts and others. Genome sequencing on other specimens is going on." "The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the states for enhanced surveillance, containment, and testing," the ministry had said. The mutant coronavirus was first detected in September in southeast England.