New Delhi: India on Monday night became the latest to halt flights to and from United Kingdom, where a mutant coronavirus is raging.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation's decision follows similar precautions by other countries on Sunday.
Nations including Canada, Turkey, Belgium, Italy, and Israel banned flights to UK right off the bat, following reports of new strain of virus going " out of control" in UK.
The ban means cancelling all flights between the two countries from 23.59 hours on December 22 till December 3, according to reports.
The ban will not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in a circular: "In view of the emerging Covid-19 situation in United Kingdom, the competent authority has temporarily suspended flight to and from United Kingdom with effect from 2359 hrs IST of 22 December, 2020,"
"Therefore, no flights from United Kingdom will land in India after 2359 hrs IST of 22 December, 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure. Consequently, flights from India to United Kingdom shall also remain suspended."
"Airlines operating flights to or from India from other countries shall not board any passenger travelling from United Kingdom to India and shall ensure that no passenger coming from United Kingdom is boarded in a flight for any destination in India either directly or indirectly."
The circular also said the passengers from the UK in all transit flights would require mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at the airports in India.
"All medical costs incurred shall be borne by the passengers," the circular said."This is a temporary measure and shall be in force till 31. December, 2020."
"There are about 40 weekly flights from eight Indian destinations to and from the UK. On an average around 11,000 people travel between the two countries per week using these air services," Nishant Pitti, Co-founder and CEO, EaseMyTrip.com.
A British Airways spokesperson said: "We are sorry that, like other airlines, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule."
"We will be contacting customers whose flights are cancelled to offer refunds...."
Currently Vistara, Air India, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways ply flights between the two countries, operating about 40 weekly flights from eight Indian destinations to and from the UK.
A Vistara spokesperson said: "Vistara will comply with the government's decision to suspend all flights originating from UK to India."
"In order to minimise inconvenience to our customers, we will enable one-time free-of-charge rescheduling of affected bookings to any date until 31 December 2021."
IANS report with edits