The United Kingdom on Monday added India to its travel “red-list” amid concerns about a new variant of the coronavirus, said Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock, reported BBC.
This bans all arrivals from India except for British or Irish citizens, who will have to pay to stay in a UK government-approved quarantine hotel for 10 days on their return. The restriction will come into effect from April 23.
The decision was made after 103 new cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India, were found in Britain. Hancock said test samples had been analysed to see if the new variant had any “concerning characteristics” such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
“After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list,” the health secretary said.
Other countries that are on Britain’s “red list” are Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to AFP.
Labelled B.1.617, the mutant variant was first detected in India, but has been now found in eight countries, with 70% of samples containing the mutations originating from India. It is being called a “double mutant” variant because it has two mutations.
The United Kingdom confirmed the presence of the double mutant strain in the country for the first time on April 16, when it said that 73 cases were recorded in England and four in Scotland.
Earlier on Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled his visit to India, which was set for next week after already being postponed in January amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. It would have been Johnson’s first major foreign visit since he assumed office in 2019.
“In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week,” the Indian and British governments said in a joint statement.
They said that Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would instead speak later this month “to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India”.
India is in the middle of an unprecedented second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, recording 2,73,810 new cases on Monday, taking its tally of infections to 1,50,61,919. With 1,619 deaths, the toll rose to 1,78,769.