At a time when several European countries, Canada and Saudi Arabia have already banned flights from the UK over a new virus strain of COVID-19, India too on Monday banned travel to and from the UK. The ban will be implemented from Tuesday and will remain in force till year-end.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation tweeted, “Considering the prevailing situation in the UK, the Government of India has decided that all flights originating from the UK to India to be suspended till 31st December 2020 (23.59 hours).” This apart, all the passengers coming from the UK till Tuesday will be tested to detect the new strain of the coronavirus.
Notably, the new virus strain is expected to be around 70 per cent more infectious than the other strain of coronavirus and several health experts have raised concern about the same.
Imaginary situation, says Harsh Vardhan
Earlier in the day, Union health minister Harsh Varshan said that the government is alert about the new strain of coronavirus reported in the UK. He asserted that there is no need to panic.
On being questioned whether India was contemplating to impose a UK travel ban, Harsh Vardhan said, “At this time, I would say, don’t get hassled with imaginary situations, imaginary talks and imaginary panic. The government is fully alert. In the last one year, as you all have seen, we took all necessary measures to ensure the safety of people. If you ask me, there’s no reason to panic so much.”
Notably, UK health secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday said that the new mutant strain of the coronavirus is out of control, but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was no evidence that the mutant strain induces more severe illness.
Arvind Kejriwal sought ban on UK flights
Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal on Monday urged the Centre to immediately ban all UK flights. He tweeted: “New mutation of coronavirus has emerged in the UK, which is a super-spreader. I urge the central govt to ban all flights from the UK immediately.”
India may start COVID-19 vaccination in Jan
Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan has said that India is likely to begin vaccination for COVID-19 in January.
The minister clarified that the country is not behind any other country as far as vaccines for COVID-19 are concerned. He, however, added that ensuring the safety and efficacy of vaccines before approval is the primary concern of the government.
The minister, in an interview with a news agency, said, “I personally feel may be in January in any stage or any week, there can be a time when we can be in a position to give first COVID vaccine shot to the people of India.”
Harsh Vardhan said there are six Indian vaccine candidates for COVID-19 that are at various stages of testing. He said some of the vaccine candidates have applied for emergency use authorisation and the drug regulator is thoroughly scrutinising these vaccine candidates.
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