Travel restrictions for passengers entering UK from India as country added to red list

23 April 2021, 06:02

Passengers arriving from India will have to enter a quarantine hotel
Passengers arriving from India will have to enter a quarantine hotel. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Passengers on flights into the UK from India must now enter hotel quarantine as the country is officially added to the UK's coronavirus travel red list.

As of 4am on Friday, people returning from India must quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days, while anyone who is not a UK or Irish resident or a British citizen will be banned from entering the country if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.

Four airlines asked for a total of eight extra flights to arrive at Heathrow before the 4am cut-off, however it is understood Heathrow declined the airlines' requests to ensure existing pressures at the border were not exacerbated.

The restrictions come in response to mounting concern about the number of coronavirus cases in India and the emergence there of a variant of the virus.

The variant - also known as B.1.617 - was first noted internationally in October and first identified in the UK on February 22.

It has 13 mutations including two in the virus' spike protein known as E494Q and L452R.

Public Health England said on Thursday 55 cases of the Indian variant were found in the UK in the week to April 14.

PHE experts are currently unsure whether any of the mutations mean the variant can be transmitted more easily, is more deadly or can evade the effectiveness of vaccines or natural immunity.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to cancel a trip to India on Monday as the country struggles to cope with a dramatic surge in cases.

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On Thursday, India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new coronavirus infections as a surge sent more people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.

The 314,835 infections added in the past 24 hours raise India's total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began - the second-highest total in the world after the US. India has nearly 1.4 billion people.

The Times of India newspaper said the previous highest daily case count of 307,581 was reported in the US on January 8.

Deaths in India rose by 2,104 over the 24 hours, raising the overall toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said.

Health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday that "demand and supply is being monitored round the clock", and the government has increased quotas for the seven worst-hit states.

Lockdowns and strict curbs have brought pain, fear and agony to many lives in New Delhi and other cities.

In scenes familiar across the country, ambulances rush from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed, and grieving relatives line up outside crematoria.

The Health Ministry said that of the country's total production of 7,500 tonnes of oxygen per day, 6,600 tonnes were being allocated for medical use.

It also said that 75 railroad coaches in the capital have been turned into hospitals providing an additional 1,200 beds for Covid-19 patients.