Flights to and from the UK have been banned till December 31 over a new fast-spreading strain of the coronavirus in that country, the government said today.
“Considering the prevailing situation in UK, the government of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December,” said the centre.
“Consequently flights from India to UK shall stand temporarily suspended during above said period.”
Passengers of flights from UK arriving before midnight tomorrow will have to take an RT-PCR test at airports.
A joint monitoring group on COVID-19 had met this morning to discuss the mutant coronavirus that has spread rapidly in the UK.
Canada, Saudi Arabia, and several European countries have suspended flights from the UK over the new strain, believed to be 70 per cent more infectious.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government was fully alert about the new strain and stressed “there’s no need to panic”.
There had been calls to ban flights from the UK since yesterday. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “New mutation of corona virus has emerged in UK, which is a super-spreader. I urge central government to ban all flights from UK immediately.”
The mutant virus was first detected in southeast England in September. It is quickly becoming the dominant strain in London and other parts of the UK, and has led to surging infection numbers and fresh restrictions, casting a cloud on Christmas celebrations.
On Sunday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “the new variant is out of control”.
Italy has reported a patient, who had recently returned from the UK, infected with the mutant virus.
The new strain has worried health experts at a time when several nations, including the UK and the United States, had cleared Covid vaccines to boost their fight amid pandemic.
European Union experts believe existing vaccines against coronavirus are effective against the new strain, Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Sunday.
India’s coronavirus cases passed the 1-crore mark on Saturday; 24,337 new cases in the last 24 hours took the tally to 1,00,55,560, the government data showed this morning. Over 1.45 lakh people have died so far.
Worldwide, over 7.68 crore cases have been reported so far; 16.9 lakh people have died.