Six passengers who arrived in India last night on an Air India flight from London have tested positive for COVID-19, while those on a British Airways plane that landed this morning in the national capital are being tested, officials said today. These developments come amid rising fears over a new strain of coronavirus that has been detected in the UK, leading to air traffic from that country being blocked by several nations, including India, in the past few days.
India’s ban on flights from the UK, however, will come into effect only from Wednesday, and will last till December 31. Till then, the government has said, all passengers arriving from the UK will be tested on arrival at airports.
The six passengers who tested positive on their arrival in India were among the 266 who travelled by the Air India Flight that landed in the national capital at 10.40pm on Monday. One of the six took a connecting flight to Chennai and was tested there, according to an agency report.
“We are testing for COVID-19 passengers of flights originating or halting in UK. One such passenger tested positive yesterday,” Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan told ANI. However, he also said, “It’s incorrect to presume that he is infected with UK variant of COVID. We’ll send his samples to NIV (National Institute of Virology), Pune.”
The samples of the passengers tested in Delhi have been sent to the National Centre for Disease Control for research and they have been sent to care centres, a nodal officer for COVID-19 has said, according to ANI.
The WHO has said that the mutant strain of the virus, with a 70% higher rate of transmission, may already be present in several countries, although it was “unlikely that a couple of mutations” could affect the immune system’s response to an existing vaccine. First identified in the UK in September, the new strain is rapidly replacing other variations of the virus, according to WHO.