NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday extended the temporary suspension of flights to and from the United Kingdom till 7 January 2021 after several returnees from the country tested positive for the new coronavirus strain that has triggered panic across the globe.

This was announced by Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. “A decision has been taken to extend the temporary suspension of flights to & from the United Kingdom till 7 January 2021,” said the Union Civil Aviation Minister.

”Thereafter strictly regulated resumption will take place for which details will be announced shortly,” the Minister added.

Puri had on Tuesday said that he foresees a “short extension” of the suspension of flights from the United Kingdom to contain the spread of the new variant of coronavirus that was first detected in that country.

Amid all this, India recorded 14 more cases with the new UK coronavirus mutant strain, taking the total number of such cases to 20, according to the Union Health Ministry. Of the 20 cases, 8 have been registered at the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi, 7 at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences in Bangalore, two at Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad.

One each has been logged at the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics near Kolkata, National Institute of Virology in Pune, and CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in Delhi.

A two-year-old girl in Meerut has also tested positive for the new strain, said Meerut`s Chief Medical Officer Akhilesh Mohan. The parents of the two-year-old who had tested Covid positive, however, have been found to be infected with the mutant. They had all returned from the UK, the health officials in Meerut said. The child is in an isolation ward with her parents at Meerut`s Subharti Medical College.

A total of 107 samples have undergone genome sequencing till now. On Tuesday, a total of six UK returnees were found to be positive with the new variant genome, the central government had announced, adding that all these persons have been kept in single room isolation in designated health care facilities.

These were the first cases to be reported by the country that has the second-highest number of cases after the US. The British government had recently announced that the newly identified strain of the virus found in their population is up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

It is important to note that the presence of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

Pursuant to the announcement by the British government, the Indian government had taken cognisance of the reports of mutant variants and put in place a pro-active and preventive strategy to detect and contain the mutant variant. It included the temporary suspension of all flights coming from the UK with effect from midnight of December 23 till 31.

From November 25 to December 23 midnight, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK. All these passengers are being tracked and subjected by states and UTs to RT-PCR tests.

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