New COVID strain: India temporarily suspends Vande Bharat flights from UK

New Delhi: India has temporarily suspended its Vande Bharat flights from the United Kingdom due to the emergence of new strain of coronavirus, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday.

Speaking during the weekly virtual press conference, Anurag Srivastava, MEA Spokesperson, said that as many as 1,005 international flights have been operated under Phase 8 Plus of India’s Vande Bharat Mission, thus, repatriating more than 40 lakh people from 27 countries.

“Phase 8 Plus of this mission is currently operational since December 1. Under this phase 1,005 international flights have been operated from 27 countries facilitating an estimated 1.8 lakh people. In terms of numbers, as on December 22, more than 40 lakh people have been facilitated under the Vande Bharat Mission,” he said.

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On the flights to and from the UK, he said, “Due to emerging COVID-19 situation and the ensuing travel restrictions, there has been a temporary suspension of Vande Bharat flights from the UK.”

The Vande Bharat Mission started in early May to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.

On December 20, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had informed the public that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus has been found in the UK.

He had tweeted, “Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, and the potential risk it poses, it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned.”

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Srivastava said that on the occasion of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 96th birth anniversary the MEA will be holding “Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture on foreign policy” on December 25.

“The MEA will commence the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture on foreign policy tomorrow on his 96th birthday. This lecture will be delivered by Nisha Biswal, President of the India-US Business Council and the event will be presided over by the Minister of External Affairs. The Foreign Secretary will also be present,” he added.

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