Britain's Heathrow Airport refuses to allow extra flights from India
(Sourced from PTI)
Britain's Heathrow Airport has refused to allow extra flights from India before it is added on Friday to the UK's COVID-19 travel "red list," which imposes a ban on entry to the country for all, except British or Irish residents. The request for extra flights from airlines was turned down because of concerns about queues at passport control, the BBC reported on Thursday.
Four carriers had requested to operate an additional eight flights from India as travelers seek to fly before the new rule comes into effect. Currently, 30 flights a week are operating between the UK and India. The airport said that it did not want to exacerbate existing pressures at the border by allowing more passengers to fly in, the report said.
The red list status, which is effective from 4 am local time on Friday, came amid a spike in coronavirus infections in India and also resulted in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceling his planned visit to New Delhi on April 26.
A government spokesperson said, "We are in a global health pandemic. People should not be traveling unless absolutely necessary. Every essential check helps avoid the risk of importing dangerous variants of coronavirus which could put our vaccine rollout at risk." Worryingly, Britain has detected over 100 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India.
British and Irish passport holders, and people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in hotels for 10 days. Last week, a director at the airport said that the situation at the border - which is operated by the Home Office - had become untenable because of delays in processing arriving passengers.
The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that it also received applications for charter flight permits from India to the UK - but these had been declined or withdrawn as they did not meet the qualifying criteria.
Since Monday's decision to add India to the "red list," searches for flights returning to the UK from India had increased by more than 250 percent. The ban means that those with valid residency rights returning to the UK after the deadline on Friday face the additional financial burden of compulsory hotel quarantine and test costs, estimated at around 2,000 pounds per person.