Hours after United Kingdom (UK) Prime Boris Johnson called off his India visit, Britain on Monday imposed its strictest travel curbs on the country citing an explosion of coronavirus cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the move in the House of Commons as he revealed that 103 cases of the so-called Indian variant had been identified in the UK, of which the “vast majority have links to international travel”.
The move is set to hit flights between the two countries starting 4 a.m. on Friday, April 23. Indian airlines are currently operating 15 flights a week, whereas British carriers are also allowed to operate the same number of flights. Restrictions on the number of flights to be allowed to and from the UK were in force till mid-April.
He said that samples of that variant have been analysed to see if the new variant has any “concerning characteristics”, such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
UK, Irish Nationals Allowed Travel From India
Mr. Hancock said India was being added to Britain’s “red list” of countries, banning all arrivals from the country except for UK or Irish nationals, who must pay to stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 10 days on their return.
The British and Indian governments said Monday that “in the light of the current coronavirus situation,” Johnson will not be able to travel to New Delhi next week as planned. They said Mr. Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would speak later this month and planned to meet in person later this year.
The long-planned trip would have been Mr. Johnson’s first foreign visit since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago. It was originally scheduled for January but was postponed when infections soared in Britain.
Earlier, as per The Times of India, almost 2,000 to 2,500 passenger used to fly to India daily on 67 weekly flights from London. Then after allowing partial resumption from January 8, 2021, New Delhi allowed partial resumption with carriers from both sides being asked to operate around 30 flights weekly to a few metros here.
Then from February 23, the Indian Health Ministry tightened rules for people flying in from South Africa, UK, and Brazil due to new strains of COVID being found in these places.