Aviation Minister says suspension of UK flights may be extended
Last week, the Indian government suspended flights to and from the United Kingdom till December 31, in view of the mutated strain of coronavirus. Today, the Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the curbs are likely to remain in place for some time now but added that the government is not planning to suspend flights for a longer period of time. Here's more.
Earlier this month, the UK reported a new variant of coronavirus and blamed it for the latest surge of cases. Researchers said this variant was 70% more transmissible but added that the existing vaccines would still work. Soon, a number of European nations levied curbs on travel to and from the UK. India also suspended flight operations and issued new guidelines for recent travelers.
During a press meet, Puri was asked if the suspension order will be revoked anytime soon and he replied in the negative. "I foresee a short extension on this temporary suspension. I don't see the extension to be long or indefinite," he added. Though international flights are suspended, in wake of the pandemic, India established "air bubble" arrangements with some countries to facilitate travel.
To note, a total of 67 weekly flights operate between India and the UK every week. These flights are operated by four major airlines, namely Air India, Vistara, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. Concerned that the new strain might bulldoze all the gains made so far, the government tweaked rules and focused on testing UK returnees. However, it didn't change the treatment protocol.
Earlier today, it was found that six UK returnees were infected with the new strain. The ones who tested positive for the new strain were isolated in single rooms, as per the guidelines. "The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the states for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to INSACOG labs," the government said.
After it was learned that the new strain reached India, the Union Health Ministry revealed that all those who returned from the UK between November 25 and December 23 are being traced. Nearly 33,000 have disembarked at various airports, the Ministry said, adding that only 114 have tested positive. A spike gene-based RT-PCR test will be conducted to ascertain if they have contracted the more infectious variant.
All the international passengers who have arrived in India during last 14 days (from 9th Dec to 22nd Dec, 2020), if symptomatic and tested positive will be subjected to genome sequencing, in the view of new COVID strain in the United Kingdom: Union Health Ministry pic.twitter.com/O8lN5ifMDS— ANI (@ANI) December 29, 2020