India added to Britain's travel 'red list' amid virus surge

Kolkata, India: UK health secretary has attached India to a "red list" of countries from which most travel to the UK is prohibited due to concerns about a new Covid version, the BBC reported. 

UK health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs: "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 declaration comes amid a skyrocketing surge of the virus in India, which experts allege to several factors including public laxity on virus-related restrictions, flouting the social distancing norms, and the emergence of many mutant strains of the novel coronavirus. 

According to the report, most people who have traveled from India in the last 10 days will be denied entry beginning at 04:00 BST on Friday, April 23. British and Irish passport holders, as well as people with UK residency rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock said in a speech to the House of Commons on Monday that the vast majority of cases of the new version had been related to foreign travel. There have been 103 cases of the India variant in the UK, he reported. 

He stated that test samples were analyzed to determine if the new model exhibited any "concerning features," such as increased transmissibility or tolerance to treatments and vaccines.

Mr. Hancock although stated that experiments are still being conducted to determine if the India variant should be classified as a 'variant of concern.'

It's unclear if it spreads faster than 'standard' Covid or is immune to vaccines, but India has been added to the red list as a "precaution," UK media reported. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the step was to ensure "we don't lose our hard-won progress on the vaccine rollout".

The announcement came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled a planned trip to India scheduled for April 26 due to rising cases of the virus there.

Since April 15, India has recorded over 200,000 cases per day.

Its capital, Delhi, has declared a week-long state of emergency after a record number of cases overwhelmed the city's healthcare system.

Mr. Hancock also reported that since December, UK authorities have recorded 557 cases of the separate South African Covid variant, with one-third of them having no obvious connection to international travel.

Many have been in a cluster in South London in Wandsworth, Lambeth, and Southwark, with single cases in Barnet, Birmingham, and Sandwell in the last week.

Mr. Hancock acknowledged that there has been a limited amount of population transmission of the South African strain, which might react less well to the vaccine.

What to do upon return to the UK?

According to the BBC, all passengers returning to the UK must fill out a passenger locator form ahead of time, including their departure country and UK address.

In order to enter the UK, they must also show evidence of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Costs for hotel quarantine In England are reportedly at £1,750 per passenger traveling alone, which includes transportation, checks, food, and lodging.

Any additional adult or child over the age of 12 must pay £650, whereas children aged five to twelve must pay £325.

Returning travelers must pay £210 for a Covid examination on days two and eight of quarantine. If they test positive, they must remain in isolation for another 10 days.

Rulebreakers will face harsh punishments, including up to ten years in jail, the BBC reported. 

Earlier today, Hong Kong banned flights from India effective immediately until May, We The World Magazine reported. 

Cover image courtesy of Mirror. 

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