New COVID-19 strain: India too suspends UK flights from Dec 23-31

Several countries, including India have suspended passenger flights to the UK. Cargo can still fly.

Several countries, including India have suspended passenger flights to the UK. Cargo can still fly.
Several countries, including India have suspended passenger flights to the UK. Cargo can still fly.
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The British government warned that the potent new strain of the virus was out of control

With many countries suspending flights to the United Kingdom (UK), India too on Monday suspended all flights from and to the UK from December 23 to December 31 in view of the emergence of a new COVID-19 strain. All passengers coming from the UK through flights till Tuesday (December 22) will have to undergo an RT-PCR test for COVID-19 on arrival at the airports “as a measure of abundant precaution”, the Civil Aviation Ministry said.

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also issued a directive to all airlines that passengers coming from the UK should not be allowed to board their flights from any other city to India during the suspension period. The regulator said the suspension — which comes in Christmas week — would not be applicable on cargo flights. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be the chief guest in India’s Republic Day celebration on January 26, 2021.

The Union Health Ministry has called an urgent meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group on Monday to discuss the emergence of the mutated variant of the Coronavirus that has led to a surge in the infection rate in the UK.

Many countries, including France, Canada, Turkey, Belgium, Italy, and Israel, have banned flights from the UK with the British government warning that the potent new strain of the virus was “out of control” and imposing a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday. This suspension will start after 11.59 PM on December 22 and consequently, flights from India to the UK shall also stand temporarily suspended during the period.

“As a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from the 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,” said Civil Aviation Ministry.

Tweet of Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri

The Union Health Ministry has called an urgent meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group on Monday to discuss the emergence of the mutated variant of the Coronavirus that has led to a surge in the infection rate in the UK. As concerns in India mounted, the Union Health minister reassured people that there was no reason to panic.

Responding to a question at a press conference, he said, “I would say this to all, that all these imaginary situations, imaginary talks, imaginary panic… Don’t involve yourself in this.” Said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

“The government is fully alert about everything. If you ask me, there is no reason to panic the way we are seeing in this press conference,” Vardhan told reporters. A Vistara airlines 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.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said a fast-moving new variant of the virus that is 70 percent 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.

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