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Covid: India added to red list after new virus strain detected
19 April 2021, 15:47 | Updated: 19 April 2021, 18:27
India has been added to the travel red list, in measures that will take effect from Friday.
There are fears about this variant because it has two new significant mutations which could help it infect cells and evade the immune system.
India's addition to the red list, which will take effect from 4am on Friday, means non-UK and non-Irish residents, or people who are not British citizens, are banned from arriving if they have been in India for the past 10 days.
Those permitted to fly in will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days from arrival.
Announcing the "difficult but vital" decision in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Hancock said: "India is a country I know well and love.
"Between our two countries we have ties of friendship and family.
"I understand the impact of this decision but I hope that the House will concur that we must act because we must protect the progress that we've made in this country in tackling this awful disease."
Mr Hancock said the variant is being analysed but the red list decision has been made on a precautionary basis, after studying the data.
"These things are kept under regular review, and there are around 30 countries currently on the list," he said.
"I know that Grant Shapps and the other members of the Covid sub-committee that look at this will review it.
"And if we get scientific advice that India should be on the red list then we will not hesitate to do that. But at the moment, we haven't had such a recommendation."
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: "As Labour has warned for months, failing to introduce strong protections at the border has left us exposed to mutations of the virus, which has now lead to dangerous outbreaks in the UK.
"It is not good enough to try and shut the door after the horse has bolted, by adding countries onto a red list when it is too late. What’s needed is an urgent comprehensive hotel quarantine system."
It also comes as Boris Johnson had to cancel his trip to India, which he described as a sensible move.
Speaking before the decision was announced, the Prime Minister said: "The red list is very much a matter for the independent UK Health Security Agency - they will have to take that decision.
"But (India PM) Narendra Modi and I have basically come to the conclusion that, very sadly, I won't be able to go ahead with the trip. I do think it's only sensible to postpone, given what's happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there.
"Countries around the world including our own have been through this. I think everybody's got a massive amount of sympathy with India, what they're going through.
"And I just want to stress that this is, we're going to be going back, the relationship between the UK and India is of huge importance, and I'll be talking to Narendra Modi on Monday, we'll be trying to do as much as we can, virtually."
Other countries on the red list include the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, and a number of states in Africa and South America.
The UK hopes it can prevent importation of coronavirus and variants which could evade protection given by vaccines.
The World Health Organisation says India has confirmed more than 15 million cases since the outbreak began and registered more than 170,000 deaths.