Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Centre suspends all UK flights, night curfew back in Mumbai

New Delhi: India on Monday suspended all scheduled passenger flights to and from the UK between December 23 and 31, joining dozens of countries that have clamped limited or comprehensive travel bans in a worldwide scramble to keep out the new coronavirus strain spreading fast across Britain.

Travellers from the UK landing at any Indian airport before the flight ban kicks in at midnight Tuesday will have to undergo mandatory RT-PCR tests, based on which institutional quarantine for at least 14 days or monitored home isolation for a week will be advised, civil aviation minister H S Puri tweeted.

Maharashtra went a step further and imposed a 11pm to 6am night curfew within municipal corporation limits across the state from Tuesday till January 5, citing the emergence of the new coronavirus strain. Only emergency services such as transportation and supply of milk and vegetables will be allowed. Christmas and New Year celebrations, large gatherings, parties, functions, shops, hotels and theatres will have to wind up at 11pm. People have been advised to reach home before 11pm and not step out till 6am unless there is an emergency.

Karnataka has made Covid tests mandatory for passengers arriving from Denmark and the Netherlands, too. Everyone with a history of travel from the UK since December 7 will be traced and tested, the state health department said.

In a circular to all airlines, aviation regulator DGCA asked them to strictly adhere to the arrival deadline of 11.59pm on Tuesday for flights from the UK. Air India and Vistara have advanced their Tuesday departures from Mumbai and Delhi by five and 10 hours, respectively, so that these flights can return ahead of the shutdown. Airlines operating between India and other countries are barred from allowing any flyer arriving from the UK to board another flight “either directly or indirectly”, the DGCA said.

Cargo and special flights are exempt from the nine-day suspension for now.

India has had an air-bubble agreement with the UK since international travel resumed, under which four airlines currently operate 67 weekly flights — British Airways (29), Air India (23), Virgin Atlantic (8) and Vistara (7) — between various Indian cities and London. Since all these airlines have flexible Covid-specific booking policies, affected passengers will get the option of refunds or rebooking, sources said.

22/12/20 Times of India

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