29 Dec 2020: Union Minister says suspension of UK flights may be extended
Today, the Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the curbs are likely to remain in place for some time now but added that the government is not planning to suspend flights for a longer period of time.
Background: Context: 70% more transmissible variant sparked worries, countries levied curbs
Earlier this month, the UK reported a new variant of coronavirus and blamed it for the latest surge of cases. Researchers said this variant was 70% more transmissible but added that the existing vaccines would still work.
Soon, a number of European nations levied curbs on travel to and from the UK.
India also suspended flight operations and announced new guidelines for recent travelers.
Statement: I foresee a short extension: Hardeep Singh Puri
During a press meet, Puri was asked if the suspension order will be revoked anytime soon and he replied in the negative.
"I foresee a short extension on this temporary suspension. I don't see the extension to be long or indefinite," he added.
Though international flights are suspended, in wake of the pandemic, India established "air bubble" arrangements with some countries to facilitate travel.
SOPs: Over fears of new strain, government changed rules
To note, a total of 67 weekly flights operate between India and the UK every week. These flights are operated by four major airlines, namely Air India, Vistara, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic.
Concerned that the new strain might bulldoze all the gains made so far, the government tweaked rules and focused on testing UK returnees.
However, it didn't change the treatment protocol.
Developments: Six people tested positive for new coronavirus strain
Earlier today, it was found that six UK returnees were infected with the new strain.
The ones who tested positive for the new strain were isolated in single rooms, as per the guidelines.
"The situation is under careful watch and regular advice is being provided to the states for enhanced surveillance, containment, testing and dispatch of samples to INSACOG labs," the government said.
Tracing: All those who returned after November 25 being traced
After it was learned that the new strain reached India, the Union Health Ministry revealed that all those who returned from the UK between November 25 and December 23 are being traced.
Nearly 33,000 have disembarked at various airports, the ministry said, adding that only 114 tested positive.
A spike gene-based RT-PCR test will be conducted on their samples to ascertain if they contracted the more infectious variant.
Fact: Now, samples of positive international passengers will be examined
Also see: Centre extends COVID-19 surveillance guidelines till January 31
Students, families stuck in UK as India suspends flights
India-UK flights suspended as Britain reports new coronavirus variant
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