As a mutant strain of COVID-19 spreads there, UK flights to India are suspended until December 31st, as of 11.59 p.m. on December 22nd.
The news of a new strain of the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – or, simply, coronavirus – in the UK has prompted multiple countries in Europe and elsewhere to prohibit flights to or from the nation. India has joined those countries now, with the suspension coming amidst pleas from officials such as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The Chief Minister described the variant as a “super-spreader”.
“Considering the prevailing situation in [the] UK, [the] government of India has decided that all flights originating from [the] UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till December 31, 2020 (11.59 pm),” said the Ministry of Civil Aviation. “This suspension [is] to start from 11.59 pm on December 22.”
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has urged the citizenry not to panic regarding the mutant COVID-19 strain in the UK, which has sparked alarm. “The government is alert,” he said during a press conference. “There is no need to panic. Do not get yourself tangled in…[an] imaginary situation, talks and panic.” The Union Health Ministry convened on Monday a meeting of the Joint Monitoring Group to discuss the situation in the UK and the new variant, featuring experts and representatives from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
As explained by The British Medical Journal, the mutant COVID-19 strain “is defined by a set of seventeen changes or mutations. One of the most significant is an N501Y mutation in the spike protein that the virus uses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor. Changes in this part of spike protein may, in theory, result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.”
Nick Loman, professor of microbial genomics and bioinformation at the University of Birmingham, said “there is striking growth in this variant, which is why we are worried, and it needs urgent follow-up and investigation.”