- WHO’s India representative is also expected to participate in the meeting
- Britain has warned about this latest coronavirus strain was “out of control” and enforced a strict stay-at-home lockdown on Sunday
- Many European countries have banned flights to and from Britain
The Health Ministry today called a meeting of its joint COVID-19 monitoring group to discuss a rapidly spreading mutant coronavirus in the UK, government sources have said. Flights to and from Britain have been banned by many European nations. No policy decision has been taken by India on any UK flight ban, but serious consideration will be given to the matter, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Britain cautioned that “out of control” was this latest strain of coronavirus, and enforced a strict new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday.
A joint monitoring group chaired by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) held a meeting at 10:30 a.m. today to discuss the UK-reported mutated coronavirus variant, government sources said. However, the details of the meeting are yet to be disclosed.
Roderico H Ofrin, Representative of the World Health Organization in India, who is also a member of the monitoring committee, is likely to participate in the conference.
A ban on UK flights has been imposed by the Netherlands and Belgium has announced it will follow suit. Germany has also stopped flights from Britain and is contemplating a similar move as a “a serious option” for South African flights, where another coronavirus type has been discovered.
In order to protect its citizens, Italy will join the ban, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook, without specifying when the steps will come into force. Austria’s Ministry of Health told the APA news agency that a flight ban would also be imposed, the specifics of which were still being worked out.
On Sunday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock cautioned that strict measures affecting nearly a third of the population of England will remain in effect until the virus vaccine is completely rolled out. “We acted very quickly and decisively,” Mr. Hancock told Sky News, explaining the order to “stay at home” banning Christmas family gatherings and shutting down non-essential stores. “Unfortunately, the new strain was out of control. We have got to get it under control.”
As drug makers are only in their early stages of rolling out vaccines, the mutation of the coronavirus is troubling scientists around the world.
In September, scientists first found the latest variant – which they claim is 70% more transmissible – in a patient. And on Friday, Public Health England, a government department, raised the alarm as modelling showed the full severity of the current strain.
The Chief Medical Officer of Britain, Chris Whitty, pointed out that although the new strain was slightly more contagious, “there is no current evidence to suggest (it) causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is underway to confirm this” reported the AFP news agency.