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Home / News / India /  India bans flights from UK amid fears of new Covid-19 variant spread

India on Monday announced that it has temporarily banned flights from UK to the country after the emergence of a new and highly infectious strain of the coronavirus in Britain. The suspension of flights from UK will come into effect from tomorrow, 22 December midnight and will continue till 31 December, the government added.

"Considering the prevailing situation in the UK, Indian govt has decided that all flights originating from the UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till 11:59 pm, 31st December. This suspension to start w.e.f. 11.59 pm, 22nd December," the Ministry of Civil Aviation tweeted.

Further, the ministry also added that 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 22nd Dec at 23.59 hrs) should be subject to mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the airports concerned.

In a series of tweets, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri informed that any interjection of COVID variant virus via passengers with air travel history could pose critical risks. 7-day isolation advisable for passengers from UK who test in RT-PCR and they will be medically monitored by the States/UTs.

"Those found positive on arrival should be sent for institutional quarantine set up by state/UT govts, in collaboration with the states/UTs concerned," Puri said in a tweet.

Till date, the rules stated that if an international passenger had a COVID-19-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 today, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured the citizens over the fears of the new strain of coronavirus in UK. He said that the government is alert and there is no need to panic.

Moreover, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had shown concerns over the rapid spread of the new variant of the virus in Britain and had urged the Centre to ban all flights from the UK immediately.

Meanwhile, Vistara spokesperson said the airline will comply with the government's order to suspend UK flights.

"In order to minimize inconvenience to our customers, we will enable one-time free-of-charge rescheduling of affected bookings to any date until 31 December 2021," the spokesperson noted.

For the last few months, Vistara, Air India, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been operating a limited number of direct special flights between India and the UK under the bilateral air bubble arrangement between the two nations.

Countries around the world have begun banning flights and travellers from Britain as London said Sunday the spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain was now "out of control".

France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and Bulgaria all announced restrictions on UK travel, hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be cancelled because of rapidly spreading infections blamed on the new coronavirus variant.

Johnson said Saturday that a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70 per cent more transmissible than existing strains appeared to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England in recent weeks. But he stressed "there's no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness," or that vaccines will be less effective against it.

Johnson will chair an emergency response meeting on Monday to discuss international travel, in particular the flow of freight in and out of Britain. EU officials are due to hold a meeting at 1000 GMT on coordinating their response.

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