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Opinion

India suspends flights to the UK

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India joined a growing list of countries on Monday to seal off access to people who have been to the UK, suspending all flights to and from the country between December 23 and December 31 to halt the arrival of a new strain of the Sars coronavirus. -Cov-2 was afraid to spread faster.

All passengers arriving from the UK on December 21 and 22 will be asked to undergo an RT-PCR test for Covid-19 at the airport, and only those who test negative will be tested. will allow them to return home, where they must isolate themselves for seven days. Anyone who tests positive will be taken to institutional quarantine or a medical facility if their health requires it, the government announced.

The move came hours after an emergency meeting of the Union Ministry of Health’s (JMG) joint monitoring group, which reviewed information from the UK, where authorities on Saturday released details of B.1.1.7, a new strain of coronavirus with an unusually high number. of changes.

After receiving the opinion of the group of experts, the ministry of civil aviation announced the suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom.

“Taking into account the prevailing situation in the UK. The Government of India has decided that all UK-origin flights to India will be temporarily suspended until December 31, 2020 (11:59 PM). This suspension will begin at 11:59 p.m. on December 22, 2020, ”the ministry said in a statement, which was reiterated separately by Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

“As a precautionary measure, passengers arriving from the UK on all transit flights (flights that have taken off or flights arriving in India before December 22nd at 11:59 PM) should be subjected to an RT- test. Mandatory PCR upon arrival at the airports in question. ”He added.

“It is just a precautionary measure. This strain has not been found in India, ”said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

A second senior official also said that genomic sequencing has found no such variant in India.

“We have not found anything related to the UK strain so far in any of our samples. Whether in our laboratory at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune or in any other laboratory in the country that performs genome sequencing, there is no evidence of this mutation in our samples ”, said Dr. Samiran Panda, director of epidemiology and communicable diseases. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

“We have imposed a 10-day suspension on flights to and from the UK after a thorough review by the government. We will reevaluate the suspension period according to the prevailing situation in the country, ”said an official from the Aviation Ministry, who asked not to be identified. Passengers will not be allowed to leave the airport until the test results are released, and the states will make the necessary arrangements for waiting passengers. Those whose test results are positive will be isolated, and those with negative results will have to be kept in home isolation for a week.

Some states, such as Maharashtra and Kerala, separately announced stricter restrictions.

The Aviation Ministry official quoted above said the Center could also announce similar restrictions as a whole for arrivals from other European nations.

The Nextstrain genome sequencing repository showed that the variant found in the UK was also circulating in Denmark, and similar mutations, albeit in a different strain, were seen in some samples from South Africa.

India has been operating international flights through bilateral transport bubbles with 23 countries, including the United Kingdom, since it canceled scheduled overseas flight operations when it announced the closure in March.

India’s bubble deal with the UK covered at least 70 flights a week, according to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The airlines that served these routes were Air India, British Airways, Vistara and Virgin Atlantic. The new variant of the coronavirus has prompted the UK government to impose a Level 4 lockdown across the country and tighten restrictions for all of England, especially during the festive period.

Viruses often mutate as the biological process of replication within the hosts they infect is not always a perfect process. Sars-Cov-2 has also been mutating, but none of these changes have been considered worrisome so far.

Experts from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium said on Saturday that the new variant is significant because it now “accounts for a growing proportion of cases in parts of England”, “it has an unusually large number of genetic changes, particularly in the protein of pico “and mutations” have potential biological effects. ”

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