India has now joined a lengthy list of countries banning flights to and from the UK amid the pandemic. Over the last few weeks, there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases, as a new strain of the virus makes its presence felt in the UK. Reacting to the same, several countries have put a temporary halt to flights to and from the western nation. The lengthy list also includes numerous European nations, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and more.
Taking to Twitter, the Ministry of Civil Aviation on Monday afternoon suspended all flights originating from UK to India till the end of 2020. The suspension will remain in effect till 23.59 hours on 31st December 2020.
"This suspension to start w.e.f. 23.59 hours, 22nd December 2020. Consequently flights from India to UK shall stand temporarily suspended during above said period. As a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or flights which are reaching India before 22nd Dec at 23.59 hrs) should be subject to mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the airports concerned," the MoCA adds.
Earlier in the day, as concern over the situation in UK grew, the Health Ministry had reportedly held a meeting with its joint monitoring group on COVID-19. At the same time, several Opposition leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had urged the government to ban flights.
For some time on Monday, it had seemed that this was not an option. Even as Opposition leaders called for a ban, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had addressed concerns about the new strain of the virus, stating that there was no need to panic.
"The government is alert. There is no need to panic," said Union Minister while addressing the curtain-raiser press conference on India International Science Festival 2020. Soon after this however, the decision to implement a suspension was announced.