Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday said that he foresees a short extension on the temporary suspension of flights from the United Kingdom due to a new variant of coronavirus. While addressing the media, Puri also added that the extension will not be indefinite or too long. Also Read - Planning a Trip to Singapore During COVID-19? Now, PCR Test Mandatory on Arrival

On December 21, the government announced that all flights connecting the UK and India will remain suspended from December 23 till December 31 in view of the emergence of a mutated variant of the coronavirus there. Also Read - How COVID-19 Affects Heart: Symptoms to Watch Out For And What to do

Moreover, it said passengers coming from the UK through flights till Tuesday midnight would be tested for COVID-19 on arrival at airports “as a measure of abundant precaution”. Also Read - AIIMS Worker Suffers Allergic Reaction After Receiving Coronavirus Vaccine, Admitted to ICU

A number of countries like Canada, Turkey, Belgium, Italy and Israel 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.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri took to Twitter and wrote that those passengers who are found COVID-positive would be sent for institutional quarantine set up by the states or union territories (UTs).

“Those found negative should be advised to isolate at home for 7 days and will be medically monitored by the states/UTs,” Puri added.

Till date, the rules stated that if an international passenger had a COVID-negative certificate from a test done 72 hours prior to the journey, he or she need not undergo COVID-19 test again on arrival at the Indian airport.

Earlier, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Union Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola recommending suspension of all flights originating from the UK into India temporarily till December 31.

“As you are aware India has been seeing a sustained decline in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases for over two-and -a-half months now accompanied by a decline in the number of deaths,” Bhushan stated.

“In this scenario, any interjection of a SARS-CoV-2 variant virus through passengers with a travel history could pose critical risk for pandemic management in India,” he added.

Bhushan recommended mandatory COVID-19 tests at airports for passengers coming from the UK, adding that the state governments should create separate desks at airports to facilitate the entire process.

The Civil Aviation Ministry tweeted on Monday: “Considering the prevailing situation in UK, Govt. of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December 2020 (23.59 hours).”

This suspension will start after 11.59 PM of December 22 and consequently flights from India to the UK shall also stand temporarily suspended during above said period, it added.

“As a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or flights which are reaching India before 22nd Dec at 23.59 hrs) should be subject to mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the airports concerned,” it mentioned.