New Delhi: India is all set to resume scheduled international flights from December 15 after coronavirus-induced suspension, the Aviation Ministry said. According to sources, “India will restart scheduled regular international flights operations, except to/from the barred 14 countries, from the third week of December. Existing air-bubble flight arrangements with these 14 countries, however, will continue.”

Based on the countries recognised as “at-risk” by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the countries have been categorised into three categories with separate capacity restrictions, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said.

Responding to questions on the new #COVID19 variant, Arindam Bagchi, official spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs, said, “This is a developing incident. We just saw a briefing by WHO. I don’t have any immediate information on the steps that we are taking. This is an issue more for our Health authorities & Civil Aviation authorities.”

According to media reports, the 14 countries barred from the list include UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Singapore.

South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they say is behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. It’s unclear from where the new variant actually arose, but it was first detected by scientists in South Africa and has also been seen in travelers to Hong Kong and Botswana.

Sharon Peacock, who has led genetic sequencing of COVID-19 in Britain at the University of Cambridge, said the data so far suggest the new variant has mutations “consistent with enhanced transmissibility”, but said that “the significance of many of the mutations is still not known”.

Given the recent rapid rise in COVID-19 in South Africa, restricting travel from the region is “prudent,” said Neil Ferguson, an infectious diseases expert at Imperial College London. He said the new variant has an “unprecedented” number of mutations and said that compared to previous variants, the newly identified version in South Africa might more easily evade current vaccines.

 

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