India resumes flights with UK amid concerns over new Covid strain

New Delhi, Jan 8 (efe-epa).- The first flight from London on landed in New Delhi on Friday after two weeks of suspension to prevent infections of the new British strain of the novel coronavirus, with all passengers from the United Kingdom being required to undergo mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

A flight of India’s flag carrier Air India carrying passengers from the UK arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Friday, the first service between the two countries since a flight ban that came into effect at midnight on Dec. 22 and expired on Thursday.

According to the Indian ministry of civil aviation, around 30 weekly flights would be operated between India and the UK from now on.

The passengers have to present the certificate of a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours of departure, and are required to undergo a fresh test upon arrival at the airport, according to airport authorities.

The travelers have to wait at the airport itself for 3-4 hours until the test results are announced.

Despite this, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday ordered a mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine even for the passengers who test negative.

“All those arriving from UK, who test positive will be isolated in an isolation facility. Negative ones will be taken to a quarantine facility for 7 days followed by 7 days home quarantine,” Kejriwal tweeted hours after the first flight from London had landed.

The head of the local government had earlier urged the central government to reconsider the decision and extend the flight ban until Jan. 31, keeping in mind the “extremely serious Covid situation” in Britain.

“With great difficulty, people have brought COVID situation in control. UK’s COVID situation is v(ery) serious. Now, why lift ban and expose our people to risk?” the chief minister asked in another tweet.

The flights being resumed from Friday in a gradual manner would only arrive in the Indian cities of Mumbai and New Delhi, the country’s biggest metros which have also been the regions worst affected by the pandemic.

India witnessed very high numbers of Covid infections for a few months in the summer, notching up record daily tallies of nearly 100,000 infections in September. However, cases have steadily declined since then.

According to the health ministry, just 18,139 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of infections to around 10.4 million.

In the same period, 234 deaths linked to the new coronavirus were reported, taking the total death toll to 150,570.

With more than 10 million people already having recovered, the recovery rate in the country stands at around 96.39 percent according to official data.

India is set to roll out a national anti-Covid vaccination campaign during the next few days, after regulators on Sunday approved the “emergency use” of the vaccine jointly developed by the Oxford University and pharma company AstraZeneca as well as the one produced by Indian lab Bharat Biotech. EFE-EPA


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