After much consideration, India has finally been added to the ‘red list’ of countries from which entry to the UK is banned.
On Monday, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock announced the revision made to the travel list and added that 103 cases of the Indian variant have been reported in the UK so far. A majority of the cases have been linked to international travel, forcing the government to make this decision before matters get worse. This travel ban will come into effect at 4 am on 23 April.
Everyone who has travelled to India within the last 10 days will be denied entry into the UK starting Friday. Those who hold British and Irish passports will be allowed inside the country if they comply with the 10-day quarantine measures that have been put in place by the government. Hancock said that this decision was a difficult one to take, given the ties between the country, but putting the safety of the people at risk was more important. He stated:
India is a country I know well and love. Between our two countries we have ties of friendship and family.
I understand the impact of this decision, but I hope the House will concur we must act because we must protect the progress we have made in this country in tackling this awful disease.
Meanwhile, the variant is currently being investigated by health officials in the UK to see if it really poses a grave threat to the country. Experts agree that there is still much about the virus that remains unknown, but setting up the travel ban was a crucial precautionary measure. Epidemiologist, Dr. Mike Tildesley told BBC:
I would always say when these new variants do emerge it is a concern and it's really important that we get as much information as we can as quickly as possible.
What's concerning about the Indian variant is there appear to be two mutations which... may make the vaccines less effective, and may make the virus more transmissible.
The key thing here is 'may'. We are still trying to gather evidence about this.
Boris cancels trip to India
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was planning to fly to India on 26 April, to discuss trade and investment between the two countries, but given the circumstances and the massive surge of cases in India, he has now cancelled his trip. He said:
I do think it's only sensible to postpone, given what's happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there.