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Indian Travellers to UK Queue For Flights; Heathrow Refuses to Allow Extra Flights From India

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Indian Travel to UK
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The United Kingdom added India to its Covid-19 travel ‘red list’ on Monday. This means that anyone not a resident of the UK or Ireland, or a British citizen, cannot enter the UK if they have been to India in the previous 10 days. UK residents arriving in the country from India will have to quarantine in a hotel for 11 nights. The rule will come into effect on April 23rd. British and Irish passport holders, and people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in hotels for 10 days.

This has led to quite a rush among Indians to get to Britain before Friday for travelers intending to travel at some stage. After that Indian citizens who have traveled out from India over the previous ten days will be denied entry. Before the red-listing of arrivals from India, a lot of Indian travelers heading to the UK are seeing green, and paying for it. An estimated 3,000 passengers are expected to arrive in Britain on a dozen flights before the red-listing is activated this Friday. Ticket prices are reported as high as 2,000 pounds, for an economy that is. 

This has led to new fears in Britain that many of these arrivals can bring the virus with them. A delay by India in December to ban arrivals from Britain led to an outbreak of the UK variant, and everyone has seen the rest. The Indian arrivals before Friday will be advised to isolate at home, but such isolation is not being enforced.

An exception to the ban will be provided to thousands of Indian students studying in Britain. A student visa or a Tier 4 visa is being held to be as good as a resident visa. That does mean that Indian students will be able to travel to Britain so far as regulations go. The difficulty will be the £1,750 each person will have to spend on ten days of compulsory quarantine in a hotel. That added to the airfare and Covid test fees makes Britain a particularly expensive place to visit, even if legally permitted. It’s not legal or medical but financial burdens that will keep many thousands away.

In England, a stay in one of the quarantine hotels costs £1,750 per passenger traveling alone. That includes transport, tests, food, and accommodation. Every additional adult, or child over 12, must pay £650, while children aged five to 12 pay £325.

Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport has refused to allow extra flights from India before the country is added to the UK travel red list on Friday. It turned down the requests from airlines because of concerns about queues at passport control.

A director at the airport said the situation at the border – which is operated by the Home Office had become “untenable” because of delays in processing arriving passengers. And so they did not want to exacerbate existing pressures at the border by allowing more passengers to fly in.

Four carriers requested to operate an additional eight flights from India as travelers seek to fly before the enforced quarantine comes into effect. Currently, 30 flights a week are operating between the UK and India. The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed that it also received applications for charter flight permits from India to the UK – but these had been declined or withdrawn as they did not meet the qualifying criteria.

A government spokesperson said, “We are in a global health pandemic, people should not be traveling unless absolutely necessary. Every essential check helps avoid the risk of importing dangerous variants of coronavirus which could put our vaccine rollout at risk. “There are currently no direct international flights from India into Wales or Northern Ireland.

A briefing document drawn up by officials at Public Health England shows that between 25 March and 7 April, 3,345 arrivals from India were registered in UK border travel data. Of those 161 – or 4.8% – tested positive for Covid-19 after a PCR test.

The Indian variant of the virus, as it has come quickly to be called, may not be quite as deadly as feared. UK medical authorities have still not classed this a “variant of concern” but only a “variant under observation”. It is being clarified by the UK government that the red-listing of India is a precautionary measure. The reassurances come amidst a shrill campaign in some of the UK media suggesting that the red-listing of India may have come too late to stop this Indian mutation of the virus from spreading around Britain. 

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