New Delhi, Dec 22 (IANS) Only three flights from the UK to India are expected to arrive at the national capital's IGI Airport ferrying more than 500 passengers before all operations to and from the European country are suspended till December 31.
The suspension will be enforced owing to concerns over a mutant strain of Covid-19 discovered in the UK.
Accordingly, an Air India flight is expected to arrive from London to New Delhi at around 10 p.m., followed by full-service airline Vistara's London-Delhi flight which is expected to land at 11 p.m. Besides, Virgin Atlantic's flight -- VS302 -- with over 240 passengers is scheduled to arrive at IGI Airport around 11.15 p.m. on Tuesday.
According to industry insiders, all the three flights will be ferrying a total of more than 500 passengers.
"All passengers will be subjected to RT-PCR test at the airport terminal only," airport sources said.
Since Monday, five passengers from the UK have tested positive for Covid-19 after they arrived at the IGI Airport here. These passengers travelled in two flights which landed here at 10:30 p.m. on Monday and 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
"Test results of all the passengers from the UK who arrived at the airport have come. Apart from five passengers, no one has been found to be positive with Covid-19," Chetan Kohli, COO, Genestrings, the pathology lab authorised to test patients arriving at IGIA, informed IANS.
The officials also informed IANS that a separate lounge has been created for the passengers arriving from the UK to wait till their test reports come out. It is being done to ensure that these passengers do not get mixed with passengers coming from other countries as we do not know who may be carrying the new variant, the officials added.
Meanwhile, Kohli informed that samples of all the positive passengers have been sent to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for genome sequencing study.
The genomic sequencing study would determine if the Covid patients are carrying the existing strain of SARS-CoV-2 or the mutant strain which was discovered in the UK.
As per the schedule, no other flights are operating on Tuesday or beyond the midnight's deadline.
"The Indian authorities have advised that from December 22, they will deny entry to passengers travelling from the United Kingdom. This is a temporary measure which the authorities will review on December 31. As a result, we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend our services between London Heathrow and Delhi and Mumbai," Virgin Atlantic said in a statement.
In a tweet, Air India said: "#FlyAI: In view of GoI directive on suspension of flights to UK, from 22nd-31st Dec'20, Oman & Saudi Arabia both from 22nd-29th Dec '20, Air India is offering passengers booked to travel during the period one-time free reschedule for travel completed within 31st Dec '21. (1/2), (sic).
"(2/2) All Penalties for one-time rescheduling, cancellation, rerouting will be waived for bookings between 22nd & 31st Dec '20. For further assistance in this regard please dial our customer care numbers."
Additionally, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) said: "Yesterday, CSMIA had four flights, one from Amsterdam and three from London carrying over 690 passengers. Today, there are Zero flights operating to and from London. There are five flights arriving and eight departing to Dubai and one departing for Doha.
"Effective December 22, 2020: Passengers arriving from the Middle East and European countries, irrespective of their further travel plans, will be subjected to mandatory institutional quarantine; any passenger identified as being symptomatic on arrival will be transferred to designated Covid facility for further evaluation.
"Passengers arriving from these regions will be transported by state officials to nearby hotels of their preference to undergo institutional quarantine for seven days at their own cost."
On Monday, India announced the suspension of all flights to and from the UK from December 23 till December 31 in the wake of the new mutant strain of novel coronavirus.
The suspension will start with effect from 23.59 hours on December 22.
All flights from India to UK shall also stand temporarily suspended during the period.
At present, Vistara, Air India, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways operate flights between the two countries. These airlines operate about 40 weekly flights from eight Indian destinations to and from the UK.
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