New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A day after the Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that he 'foresees a short extension of a ban on UK flights', the Civil Aviation Ministry on Wednesday announced that the temporary suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom has been extended till January 7, 2021, in wake of the new strain of COVID-19 found in Britain. 

The announcement by the Hardeep Singh Puri came on the day when 14 more UK returnees to India tested positive for the new strain of the coronavirus, which is said to be 70 per cent more transmissible and infectious than the existing strains. The new cases today took the total to 20 in the country. 

As per the data by the health ministry, the mutated UK strain was detected in eight samples at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi, one at the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani (near Kolkata), one at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) Pune, seven at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences Hospital (NIMHANS) Bengaluru, two at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and one at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hardeep Singh Puri indicated that the government is assessing the situation and reviewing the data in other countries also and will make a decision on the extension of the temporary ban on UK flights soon. "I foresee a short extension on this temporary suspension. I do not see the extension to be long or indefinite," Union Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said.

Puri also said that India responded in a pro-active manner since November 25 in checking the passengers returning from Britain and made sure that every returnee completes 14-day quarantine period even after testing negative for the virus. 

Shortly after the new strain of coronavirus created headlines, India took cognizance of the reports of the virus reported from the UK and put in place a proactive and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant.

This strategy includes a temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK with effect from the midnight of December 23 till December 31 and mandatory testing of all UK-returned air passengers through RT-PCR test. The samples of all UK returnees found positive in RT-PCR test will be genome sequenced by a consortium of 10 government labs i.e. INSACOG.

Posted By: Talib Khan