India extends flight ban to and from UK till Jan 7

Coronavirus new strain: Centre bans UK flights till Jan 7, curbs on New Year celebrations

As of Wednesday, the health ministry had found 20 persons who had returned from Britain to be infected with the new strain of coronavirus

Representative Image. Credit: AFP

The Centre on Wednesday asked states to impose restrictions on New Year celebrations to prevent such events from turning into “super spreaders” of Covid-19, as infections from the new UK strain of coronavirus rose to 20.

“Decision has been taken to extend the temporary suspension of flights to & from the UK till 7 January 2021,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.

He said that after January 7 flights would resume in the “strictly regulated” manner and details about it would be announced “shortly”.

Read | 20 UK returnees in India have new coronavirus strain

The government also extended the ban on flights to and from Britain till January 7 and on other international operations till January 31. However, bilateral arrangements through ‘air bubbles’ and cargo flights would continue to operate as sanctioned by the civil aviation regulator DGCA.

India had imposed a ban on flights to and from Britain from December 23 to 31, after it reported a new strain of the virus that was highly contagious and unveiled a new protocol to screen passengers from that country.

As of Wednesday, the health ministry had found 20 persons who had returned from Britain to be infected with the new strain of coronavirus.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also wrote to chief secretaries of all the states and union territories, asking them to maintain “strict vigil” to prevent new year celebrations from turning into super-spreader events.

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“You would appreciate that in the wake of New Year and various celebratory events associated with it as well as on-going winter season, a strict vigil is required to be maintained to curb all potential "super spreader" events and places where crowds may gather," the letter read.

The letter, however, said that there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods.

Bhushan recalled that the Ministry of Home Affairs had asked States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, to impose local restrictions such as night curfew to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The Health Secretary also urged the States to promptly assess the local situation and consider the imposition of appropriate restrictions on December 30 and 31, 2020 as well as on January 1, 2021.