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NEW DELHI : India has extended a nine-month suspension on scheduled international commercial flights by a month to 31 January, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Wednesday.

However, dedicated cargo flights and those specifically allowed by the civil aviation regulator such as flights under the Vande Bharat Mission, and bilateral air bubble pacts will continue to operate, according to a DGCA circular.

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A bilateral air bubble is a mechanism to resume flights between India and other nations with preconditions during the pandemic.

International scheduled flights also may be allowed on select routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis, according to the DGCA circular.

India currently has bilateral air bubble pacts with 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ukraine, the UAE, and the US.

Earlier in the day, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter that “a decision has been taken to extend the temporary suspension of flights to & from the UK till 7 January 2021", referring to flights being operated under the air bubble pact between the two countries.

“Thereafter, strictly regulated resumption will take place for which details will be announced shortly," the minister said.

India last week temporarily suspended the air bubble pact with the UK till Thursday to prevent the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus that is considered to be more infectious.

The government’s decision is likely to have been influenced by six passengers who arrived at Delhi airport from the UK recently testing positive for the new virus strain.

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