Health desk-20 April 2021: India has been added to a “red list” of countries from which most travel to the UK is banned, over fears of a new Covid variant, the health secretary has said.
From 04:00 BST on Friday 23 April, most people who have travelled from India in the last 10 days will be refused entry.
British or Irish passport holders, or people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.
Matt Hancock said there had been 103 UK cases of the India variant.
Health officials say this new variant, first identified in India, has some worrying genetic changes that need exploring.
It’s still too soon to say if it is more contagious, deadly and will evade vaccines – and whether it should join the Variant of Concern list that the South Africa, Kent and Brazil variants belong to.
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.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Committee, questioned why India was not put on the red list sooner, adding: “Hong Kong this week have identified 47 Covid cases just on a single Delhi flight and we have still 16 more direct flights, many more indirect flights from India to here, before Friday alone.”
Mr Hancock responded by saying that decisions on each country were “kept under constant review”.