Over 60 passenger flights per week were flying between India and the UK in December. When it was recorded that the UK has found 17 mutations in Covid 19 genetic material and has affected a number of people, Uk immediately canceled its flights to different countries. Before December 23, almost 2,000-2,500 passengers used to fly to India daily from the UK on these weekly flights (66 from London Heathrow and one from Birmingham). Alike other nations, India too suspended the flights to the UK in order to avoid the risk of passengers getting affected by the new strain. India’s earlier suspension period was from 23 to 31 December. In the wake of increasing cases of the new strain, the UK decided to extend the temporary suspension of flights to & from the UK till January 7.

Only 30 flights per week will operate between India and the UK when services resume from 8 January, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced on Friday and said this arrangement will continue till 23 January. Puri tweeted on Friday, “It has been decided that flights between India and the UK will resume from 8 January 2021.” Indian and UK carriers will each be operating 15 flights per week during the aforementioned period to and from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad only, he said. “Operations till 23 January will be restricted to 15 flights per week each for carriers of the two countries to and from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad only,” he added.

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

All the community contacts of those travelers who traveled to India and have tested positive (during the home quarantine period) would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate Quarantine Centers for 14 days and tested as per ICMR protocol. All the contacts of those travelers who arrived at various airports between 8th and 30th January 2021 and tested positive on arrival during the air travel would be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers and would be tested as per ICMR guidelines. To keep a check on the local mutation of Sars-CoV-2, India has also decided to do genome sequencing of 5 percent of all daily samples.

These SOPs shall be valid till 30 January or till further orders, whichever is earlier, the Health Ministry said today. India has formed air bubble pacts with 24 countries, including the UK. According to which the airlines have been permitted to operate special international flights under the Vande Bharat Mission since May 2020 and the bilateral air bubble pacts since July.