India to resume flights with UK from Jan 8, only 15 weekly flights per country

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Over a week after suspending flights between India and the UK, the civil aviation ministry is set to resume them from January 8.

“It has been decided that flights between India & UK will resume from 8 Jan 2021. Operations till 23 Jan will be restricted to 15 flights per week each for carriers of the two countries to & from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru & Hyderabad only. DGCAIndia will issue the details shortly,” tweeted Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.

Earlier, India and the UK had about 67 flights per week. The suspension came following reports of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus that was detected in the UK, courtesy the country’s expansive genome sequencing programme.

A total of 29 people have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday.

These include the 25 cases which were announced till Thursday.

“All the 29 persons are in physical isolation in health facilities,” an official said.

Of the 29, the mutated UK strain was detected in the samples of eight persons at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in New Delhi, two in the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, one in the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), five in the National Institute of Virology in Pune, three in Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)in Hyderabad and 10 were sequenced at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS)Bengaluru.

Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated for co-travellers, family contacts and others, the ministry said.

The presence of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore, so far.

The government of India took cognizance of the reports of virus reported from the UK and put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant, the ministry said, referring to the temporary flights suspension as well as the mandatory testing of all UK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test.

The samples of all UK returnees found positive in the RT-PCR test will be genome sequenced by a consortium of 10 government labs-INSACOG.

Further, all the international passengers who have arrived in India between December 9 to 22, if symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19, will be subjected to genome sequencing as part of the Centre’s strategy to detect the mutated UK variant in them.

Others will be followed up by the respective state and district surveillance officers and will be tested as per ICMR guidelines (even if asymptomatic)between the fifth and the tenth day, according to the Union Health Ministry’s guidance document on genomic sequencing.

Further, epidemiological surveillance of the passengers, who have arrived in India since November 23 will be conducted in the community through active follow up.

The standard operating protocol for states and UTs to tackle the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 was issued on December 22, it added.

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