In view of the new strain of COVID-19, reportedly being ‘out of control’, in the UK, India is on alert temporarily suspending all flights originating from the country. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has informed that flight operations between Britain and India will remain suspended from 22nd December to 31st December 2020.
“Government of India has decided that all flights to and from the UK will be suspended till 31st December 2020 (23.59 hours). This suspension will start w.e.f. 23.59 hours, 22nd December 2020. However, this restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA.”Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt of India
As per DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) circular issued in this regard, Airlines operating flights to India from other countries shall also not board any passenger travelling from the UK to India and shall ensure that no passenger coming from the UK is boarded in a flight for any destination in India either directly or indirectly.
Mandatory RT-PCR test for passengers in transit flights
As a measure of precaution, passengers arriving from the UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or flights which are reaching India before 22nd December 2020 at 23.59 hrs) should be subjected to mandatory RT-PCR test at the arrival port in India. The passengers found Covid-19 positive on arrival shall be quarantined as per guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and would bear the medical costs incurred.
Meanwhile, Karnataka government has enhanced passenger screening at International Airports and Seaports, “It is hereby instructed that for all flights arriving from today (Monday), RT-PCR testing must be done for all passengers originating from the UK, including those transiting in other airports outside the UK. Those who are RT-PCR positive shall be under hospital isolation and positive samples should be sent to NIMHANS, Bengaluru for molecular testing,” the circular issued by the state government read.
New Covid-19 strain dampens Christmas spirit
On December 20, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson informed the public that a new variant of COVID-19 virus has been found in the United Kingdom.
He tweeted, “Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned.”
The new coronavirus strain said to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original virus is not yet out of control and can be contained using existing measures, the World Health Organization said on Monday, while British Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier claimed the new variant was ‘out of control’.
Countries suspend flights to UK
Apart from India, Pakistan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Jordan and Hong Kong also suspended travel for Britons. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman closed their borders completely. Several other nations, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and Canada have blocked travel from Britain over the weekend.
Mutation behind the new covid-19 strain
Mutations are changes in the genetic sequence common in a virus replicating within a host. Viruses often mutate or develop small changes, as they reproduce and move through a population.
Scientists claim that a similar variant of the virus has surfaced in South Africa also. Though, as per scientists, with vaccinations rolling out in several countries and people developing herd immunity against Covid-19, mutations are not unexpected as the viruses undergo new adaptations to survive and spread.
Covid-19 tally in India
Meanwhile, India has recorded lowest daily new Covid-19 cases after a gap of nearly six months. With 19,556 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, India’s Covid-19 tally has reached 1,00,75,116, said the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) today. According to the Union Health Ministry, there are 2,92,518 active cases in the country and so far 1,46,111 people have died. Besides, as many as 96,36,487 cases have been cured/discharged/migrated.