India’s hospital beds and oxygen are running low as the country struggles with a surge in Covid-19 cases, ITV News Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports
India has been added to the UK’s red list of travel destinations, meaning Brits who have been there in the past 10 days must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
And anyone who has been in India and who does not live in the UK will be banned from entering the UK.
India, with its worsening coronavirus situation, will be added to the list from 4am on Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was earlier forced to cancel his long-planned trip to India, planned for next week, citing the «current coronavirus situation» there.
Mr Johnson and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed the cancellation of the trip as New Delhi entered a week-long lockdown to tackle a surge in cases.
Indian reported 273,810 new infections on Monday, the highest daily rise since the pandemic began. For the past three weeks, the country has consistently been reporting more than 150,000 Covid cases a day.
Not only are Covid-19 cases rocketing in the country, but a new variant found there is being investigated to see if it could spread more easily and evade vaccines.Mr Hancock told MPs: «We’ve recently seen a new variant first identified in India. We’ve now detected 103 cases of this variant, of which again the vast majority have links to international travel and have been picked up by our testing at the border.»
Mr Hancock said the samples have been analysed to see if the new variant has any «concerning characteristics» such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
He added: «After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list.»
He confirmed surge testing will be rolled out to curb the spread of the Indian variant.
The health secretary also said the UK was ready to begin its rollout of booster jabs, designed to tackle the emergence of new coronavirus variants.
He said enough doses of booster jabs had been procured for the UK to begin later this year.
Mr Hancock said the vaccine rollout has been successful so far, with 10 million people now fully vaccinated. At the same time, hospital admissions and Covid-related deaths are falling.
But he told the Commons: “The biggest risk to our progress here in the UK is a new variant that the vaccine does not work as well.”
Boris Johnson said: “I do think it’s only sensible to postpone (the trip to India), given what’s happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there.”
The Department for Transport said the situation in India “has deteriorated with an extremely rapid rise in cases detected throughout April, which is accelerating”.
It added that despite current travel measures, “there is a high volume of travel between India and the UK”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the decision to add India to the red list was the right one.
He told MPs: “I am a member for Leicester and I’m immensely proud of our deep ties and bonds to India. But we must always be vigilant, be driven by data and have zero tolerance for variants that could set us back.”
Listen to our coronavirus podcast