New Delhi: As many as 22 passengers flying from the United Kingdom to different cities in India over the past few days have tested positive for coronavirus amid rising concerns regarding the new variant of the viral disease that the UK government said was ‘out of control’. Experts said that nearly 50 per cent of these UK travellers could be potential carriers of the new more infectious COVID-19 strain. Also Read - 'Some Evidence' That New UK Coronavirus Strain More Deadly & Transmissible, Warns Boris Johnson

A first warning was raised in India after 11 people on a flight from the UK to Delhi tested positive for COVID-19. Further, two UK returnees in Kolkata, eight in Amritsar and one in Chennai also tested positive. However, none of these people has been confirmed with the new strain of coronavirus. Research regarding the same is underway. Also Read - 'Not 1, But 2 Made in India Vaccines': Modi in Interaction With Covid Vaccinators in Varanasi | Top Points

Last night, a 34-year-old United Kingdom returnee on December 18 tested positive in Odisha. Meanwhile, at least 1,200 passengers had arrived in Telangana from the UK between December 9 and December 23. Also Read - Vitamin D Deficiency May Raise Risk of Contracting the Deadly Coronavirus

In Delhi, authorities have enhanced monitoring of city residents who returned in the past few weeks from the UK, to prevent any violation of the mandatory home isolation, government officials said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mumbai has announced a night-time curfew over fears of the British strain. The Mumbai airport is also tracing passengers back to one month.

What Experts Say

Currently, the mutant coronavirus strain B.1.1.7 is already present in 60 per cent of the positives in the UK. As a result, at least half of the positives travelling to India may also be carrying the new variant, said Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular biology (CCMB), as quoted in a report by India Today.

“There is no point in testing those who have come a month ago. They may have already turned asymptomatic and spread whatever they had to others,” Dr Mishra added.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has informed until a designated laboratory establishes the presence of a mutant virus, “it’s incorrect to say that the new strain of the coronavirus has entered India”.

Samples of all flyers from the UK who test positive are being sent to National Institute of Virology in Pune and other similar specialised labs to determine if their infections have strains of the mutant coronavirus.

Passengers with travel history to the UK will have to undergo screening at a special kiosk set up by the BMC at the airport terminal. The Centre on Monday suspended all UK-India flights from December 23 to December 31 in view of the emergence of a new coronavirus strain in that country.