India-UK Flights, Halted Due to Highly Contagious Coronavirus Variant, to Resume from January 8

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The Centre on Friday announced that the temporary ban on flights to India from the United Kingdom will be lifted from January 8, and operations will be allowed in a restricted manner for the next two weeks.

The government had suspended flights to the UK on December 23, and extended the ban for another week to stop the spread of a new highly contagious variant of Covid-19 that was rapidly infecting people in the UK.

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted that from Jan 8 to 23, 15 flights per week will be allowed between the countries. The flights will be allowed to take off from and land in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

“It has been decided that flights between India & UK will resume from 8 Jan 2021. Operations till 23 Jan will be restricted to 15 flights per week each for carriers of the two countries to & from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru & Hyderabad only,” he wrote on Twitter.

In India, so far 29 people have been detected with this new variant of the virus, which the UK government had said is 70 per cent more transmissible than the more common variant.

Of the 29 cases, 10 cases have been detected by labs in Delhi, 10 by a Bengaluru lab, one in West Bengal, three in Hyderabad and five by the National Institute of Virology, Pune. All those infected have been sent into institutional quarantine.

Around the globe, the new strain has been found in at least 13 countries, including France, Germany, Canada, Singapore, the Netherlands, South Korea, Japan, Belgium, Spain, and several others jurisdictions.

It is expected that everyone arriving in India from the UK from January 8 will be mandatorily made to undergo RT-PCR testing. Individual states will likely issue their own standard operating procedures.

In addition to this, some states like Maharashtra had earlier mandated institutional quarantine for all passengers arriving from the UK between the time the flight ban was announced and was implemented.