Travellers exposed to Indian variant in airports as flights from India continue to land in the UK

With the Indian variant threatening the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, flights from India have been landing in the country every single day.

Indian Variant
© Unsplash
Indian Variant

An analysis done by Leading Britain's Conversation (LBC) has revealed that over 100 flights from India have landed in the UK since the government put it on the red list on 23 April. Unlike most countries on the list, direct flights from India, and neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, have been permitted to enter the UK's borders. Last night, Mirror also discovered that three planes that were potentially packed with passengers from India landed at Heathrow airport.

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Mixing in the airport

Only British and Irish citizens, along with those who have residence rights in the UK, are allowed to return to the country from India. All passengers are mandated to a 10-day hotel quarantine upon arrival. However, these measures are not sufficient to prevent the spreading of the virus. Now that international travel has resumed, airports have become a breeding ground for the variant of concern and there is a risk that passengers will mix with travellers arriving from India—travellers who could potentially be infected with the Indian variant.

One traveller spoke to Mirror, and said:

While queuing there was no social distancing. We had a plane from India arrive straight after ours and we queued for over three hours and when their plane arrived it was out the door.

Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds told LBC:

The mess over the banned flights and the Red List is yet more evidence of the utter mess that the Conservatives have made of protecting our borders against Covid, while the scenes of people from Red List countries having to mix at airports is deeply worrying.

Indian variant entering the country

According to NHS test and trace data collected between 22 April and 5 May, around 4,258 travellers coming from India took COVID tests. Of that number, almost 300 tested positive. The data also suggests that 46% of those who were positive were infected with a ‘variant of concern’ or a ‘variant under investigation.’

LBC reported that since 23 April, an estimated 8,500 passengers have arrived in the UK from India. So, if the trend identified by the NHS test and trace continued, it is likely that at least 600 passengers who were infected with the virus have entered the country already.

Indian variant clusters have been rising in the UK Indian variant clusters have been rising in the UK