The Union Health Ministry has called an urgent meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group on Monday to discuss the emergence of a mutated variant of the coronavirus in the UK, which has led to a surge in the infection rate there. Sources said experts from AIIMS and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), along with a representative from the World Health Organisation (WHO), will attend the meeting on the new strain. Also Read - India's Vaccine Drive From Tomorrow: Health Ministry Lays Guidelines, Precautions | Check Details Here

A number of European countries have banned flights from the UK as the British government warned that the potent new strain of the virus was “out of control” and imposed a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday. Also Read - Schools in Himachal Pradesh to Reopen From Feb 1, Face Mask Must For Students | Guidelines Here  

“The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) chaired by the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS) will hold a meeting on Monday morning to discuss the issue of the mutated variant of the coronavirus reported from the UK. WHO India representative Dr Roderico H Ofrin, who is also a member of the JMG, is likely to participate in the meeting,” a source told PTI. Also Read - IRCTC Latest News: No Extra Fare Charged From Passengers Despite COVID-19, Says Railways

A surge in the infection rate caused by the new variant of the coronavirus has led to millions entering a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown in the UK from Sunday, with non-essential shops and businesses now closed.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new rules at a briefing from 10 Downing Street on Saturday evening, which means a planned five-day Christmas bubble of relaxed rules has been cancelled in favour of a new Tier 4 level to the current three-tier lockdown system to try and control the surge in infections being caused by the new mutation of the deadly virus.

“It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus, Johnson said. We have alerted the World Health Organisation and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding, said Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England.

There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this, he said.

(With agency inputs)