People travelling to the UK from India within 10 days from Friday 23rd of April 2021, from 4:00 BST, will be refused entry to the UK. However, people with UK residence rights, or British or Irish passport holders, will be granted entry but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. After India was added to the red list countries, this came into place over concerns of a new Covid variant, the health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock said there had been 103 UK cases of India’s variant. The health secretary made a statement at the House of Commons on Monday that most of the cases of the new variant – officially known as B.1.617 – had been linked to international travel.
He also said test samples had been examined to understand if the new variant had any “concerning characteristics” such as higher transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
He told MPs that after studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, they had made the vital decision to add India to the red list countries.
Health officials say that this new variant of the virus was first identified in India. However, this has some troubling genetic changes that need examining.
Even though it’s still too soon to say if it is contagious, deadly and will sidestep vaccines.
There are ongoing assessments, and the government is looking to stop more cases from entering and spreading in the UK. Hence the reason for the government to step up fast testing is to fasten the process of finding any new cases in the UK. They are also introducing a new speedy lab test that shows positive for the virus within hours of someone being positive. This is to see if the infection is a known variant, including this new one from India. This would allow people to isolate faster to prevent the virus from spreading.
In a tweet, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated that this step was taken to assure the UK did not lose its progress on the vaccine rollout.
A briefing document drafted up by officials at Public Health England shows that between 25 March and 7 April, 3,345 people travelling to the UK from India were registered in UK border travel data. Of those, 161 – or 4.8% – tested positive for Covid-19 after a PCR test.
This new travel rule applies to England and Scotland. There are no direct international flights into Wales or Northern Ireland at the moment.
Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said that international travel would continue to remain an enormous risk, requiring a careful approach, on a four-nation basis.
Less than four months ago, India suspended flights from the UK to avoid the spread of the UK variant.
Now, as the Indian variant is investigated and case numbers climb.
It shows how quickly dynamics between countries can change.
When the Westminster government last added Bangladesh and Pakistan to the red list, it gave a week’s notice at the start of April. This time it’s just over three days.
Direct flights to and from India are already limited – a decision made by the Indian government in January – to 30 a week, meaning that many will rush to book the last few seats before Friday.
The travel industry is still hoping that international travel from England will restart on 17 May, but today’s announcement shows that it will be a while until 2021 travel is available. However, the list of countries on the banned list is getting longer rather than shorter.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, asked why India was not put on the red list countries sooner, adding that Hong Kong has identified 47 Covid cases just on a single Delhi flight this week. Mr Hancock responded by saying that decisions on each country were kept under regular inspection.