By Gurbir Singh:
Following footsteps of New Zealand, Hong Kong and Pakistan have suspended all travel from India for two weeks starting today (April 20) over concerns of transmission of mutated corona virus strain from there. Britain has also added India to its Covid-19 travel “red list” which effectively means anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
New Zealand has already temporarily halted return of its citizens and residents from India for two weeks, beginning 11 April while it reviews the pre-departure testing regime of countries.
British PM, Boris Johnson has put off his proposed trip there as India grapples with a spike in Covid-19 with number of daily cases exceeding 2,75,000.
With the UK government placing India on ‘red list’, doubt is now cast over cricket World Test Championship final in England. Sports people do have exemption, but they are still required to undertake 10-day quarantine in a government-approved facility.
In view of fast deteriorating Covid situation in India, it is to be seen if New Zealand would extend the temporary suspension of flights from India when the current period ends on 28 April.
In the UK, 103 cases of the so-called Indian variant have been identified of which the “vast majority have links to international travel”.
Canada has also reported passengers having tested positive upon arrival from India.
This is despite a mandatory requirement by these countries for the passengers to have a negative test report before boarding a flight.
Hong Kong has prohibited flights from Pakistan and the Philippines also and has classified the three countries as “extremely high risk”.
Hong Kong claims to have identified multiple imported cases carrying the N501Y mutant of Covid-19 strain into the local community in the past two weeks.
In one earlier instance, 47 passengers on Vistara’s April 4 flight from Delhi (India) tested positive upon arrival in Hong Kong.
As a result, on Sunday(18 April) Hong Kong imposed bans on flights from India up to 2 May operated by Vistara, and Air India as well for carrying passengers that tested positive upon arrival.
However, the national carrier Air India had said that it “cannot be held responsible for any lacunae on the issue of passenger test reports”.
There have been reports of people in India using false Covid- test reports to travel domestically, but so far no case of use of forged reports for travel overseas have been reported.
The national capital Delhi has seen close to 23,500 cases in the last 24 hours, and has been put under a one-week lockdown from Monday (19 April) night.
“We cannot have people dying on the roads,” a visibly shaken Chief Minister of Delhi said while making the announcement. Neighbouring state of Rajasthan has also imposed two-week lockdown while other regions have announced selective timings of curfew hours.