‘Out Of Control’ New Coronavirus Strain In UK, Govt Calls Meet

The Health Ministry has called a meeting today of its joint monitoring group on COVID-19 to discuss a mutant coronavirus that has spread rapidly in the UK, government sources have said. Several European nations have banned flights to and from Britain. No policy decision has been taken by India on any flight ban from the UK but the matter will be given a serious consideration, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Britain has warned this new strain of coronavirus was "out of control", and imposed a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday.

The joint monitoring group chaired by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) will discuss the mutated variant of coronavirus reported from the UK, government sources said.

The World Health Organisation's India representative Roderico H Ofrin, who is also a member of the monitoring group, is likely to participate in the meeting.

The Netherlands has imposed a ban on UK flights and Belgium said it would follow suit. Germany, too, stopped flights from Britain and is considering a similar move as "a serious option" for flights from South Africa, where another variant of coronavirus was discovered.

Italy will join the ban in order to protect its citizens, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook, without specifying when the measures would come into force. Austria's Health Ministry told the APA news agency that it would also impose a flight ban, the details of which were still being worked out.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Sunday warned that the strict measures that affect almost a third of England's population could stay in place until the virus vaccine is fully rolled out. "We acted very quickly and decisively," Mr Hancock told Sky News, justifying the "stay at home" order, ban on family gatherings over Christmas and closure of non-essential shops. "Unfortunately, the new strain was out of control. We have got to get it under control."

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