India To Be Added To UK's Travel 'Red List' From Friday Following Concerns Over New Covid-19 Variant
All arrivals into the UK from India will be banned from Friday, with only British and Irish residents able to enter from the country after completing hotel quarantine.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move was being taken on a "precautionary basis" amid concerns over a new Covid-19 variant first discovered in India.
The restrictions, which will come into place from 4am on Friday, will mean any UK or Irish residents or British citizens who have been in India in the previous ten days before their arrival will be forced to undertake a period in hotel quarantine.
Hancock confirmed that 103 cases of the India variant have been detected in the UK, the majority of which have links to international travel and have been picked up by our testing at the border
"We have been analysing samples from these cases to see if this variant has any concerning characteristics like greater transmissibility or resitance to treatment or vaccines, meaning it has to be listed as a variant of concern," Hancock told the House of Commons on Monday.
He added: "After studying the data, and preceeding on a precautionary basis, we have made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list."
Hancock said he understood the "impact" of the move given the "ties of friendship and family" between the two countries, but insisted the travel ban was necessary to protect the UK's response to the pandemic.
The announcement comes just hours after it was announced that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had cancelled a trip to India set to take place later this month following a surge in cases.
India has seen a dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases over the last month, with more than 150,000 new infections being reported each day over the past three weeks.
A joint statement from India and the UK, released on Monday, said: "In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week.
"Instead, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India.
"They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year."
Despite the new travel restrictions, the UK's health authorites have not yet reclassified the variant as one of "concern" with Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace saying on Sunday that further investigation was ongoing to determine whether the strain warranted reclassification.