The Government of India has decided to extend the suspension on flights to and from the UK till January 7 in the wake of the spread of the new fast-moving strain of the coronavirus mutant. Till Wednesday the Union Health Ministry logged 20 cases in India of the variant.
Initial decision on suspension was till December 31. However, in the wake of samples increasing for the variant strain, a new decision was taken.
“Decision has been taken to extend the temporary suspension of flights to & from the UK till 7 January 2021,” Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet on Wednesday.
“Thereafter strictly regulated resumption will take place for which details will be announced shortly,” he added.
The move comes a day after Puri said that a slight extension of the temporary suspension of UK flights beyond December 31 can be expected.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, the minister said that over 60 flights per week were being operated between UK and India prior to the suspension.
“I foresee a slight extension of the temporary suspension because we are getting a fuller picture of what has happened. I don’t expect the extension to be a long or indefinite extension,” Puri had said.
The suspension commenced with effect from 11.59 p.m. on December 22.
Prior to the suspension, Vistara, Air India, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways were operating flights between the two countries.
With 20,550 new coronavirus infections and 286 deaths in the past 24 hours, India’s overall tally stood at 1,02,44,853 on Wednesday, while the death toll touched 1,48,439, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.
Till now, 9,83,4141 have recovered. Currently, there are 2,62,272 active cases. The recovery rate stands at 95.99 per cent while the fatality rate is 1.45 as per cent.
UK approves Oxford vaccine
The UK on Wednesday approved the Oxford University-AstraZenecas Covid-19 vaccine for use after authorisation by the country’s medicines regulator.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The UK has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and its roll out will continue.
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, the goverment said.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the priority should be to give as many people in at-risk groups their first dose, rather than providing the required two doses in as short a time as possible.
“Everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection,” the government said.
“From today the NHS across the UK will prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups. With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalisation.”