A health worker takes a swab sample from a policeman for a RT-PCR test in Chennai, India, on Monday. AFP
Britain on Monday imposed its strictest travel curbs on India after an explosion of coronavirus cases there, hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off a trip to New Delhi.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that effective from 0300 GMT on Friday, India was being added to Britain's "red list" of countries, banning all arrivals from India except for UK or Irish nationals.
Those nationals, along with foreigners who live in the UK, must pay hefty amounts to stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 10 days following their return from red-list nations, which include Pakistan and Bangladesh.
"We've made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list," Hancock told parliament after the government had faced days of criticism for holding off the decision, pending Johnson's trip.
The decision was in light of surging case numbers and the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in India, the health minister said after New Delhi entered a week-long lockdown.
In the event, the UK and Indian governments earlier Monday called off Johnson's visit, which was set for next week after already being postponed in January.
It would have been Johnson's first major foreign visit since he took office in 2019.
"In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week," the two governments said in a joint statement.
People crowd at a bus station to reach their native places hours before a week-long lockdown in New Delhi. AFP
They said that Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would instead speak later this month "to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India.
"They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year."
Monday's announcement could also have a knock-on effect upon England's upcoming home international cricket schedule. Several leading England and New Zealand cricketers currently taking part in the lucrative Indian Premier League tournament are expected to fly in for the two-match Test series that starts at London's Lord's ground on June 2.
Indian players could be affected too, with Virat Kohli's men set to face New Zealand in the inaugural World Test Championship final in Southampton later that month.
Eoin Morgan and Virat Kohli gesture before the match. File
But the Rose Bowl ground at Southampton, the headquarters of county side Hampshire, boasts an on-site hotel and it was one of the venues, along with Manchester's Old Trafford, that has a similar set-up, which pioneered international cricket's return from coronavirus-enforced suspension last year.
A spokesperson for the International Cricket Council, the sport's global governing body, said: "The ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and other Members have demonstrated how we can stage international cricket safely in the middle of a pandemic and we are confident that we can continue to do that and that the World Test Championship Final will go ahead as planned in June in the UK."
The India women's team is also due to arrive for a multi-format series against England starting on June 16.
Johnson's office had last week announced the visit would be shortened. It was originally organised to span three days and set to begin on April 26.
Britain is aiming for a "cautious but irreversible" plan to exit coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, as the country greeted the first arrivals subject to a new hotel quarantine regime.
Using European Centre of Disease Control data on deaths in 11 nations in the period up to May 4, they compared the number of observed deaths in the countries against those predicted by their model if no restrictions had been imposed.
Briefing the media on the progress of Phase IV of the mission, known as "Vande Bharat," Srivastava said the additional flights will from GCC countries, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK, Europe, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the "difficult decision” was prompted by rising infection rates in Portugal and worries about new strains of the virus that could prove resistant to vaccines. EasyJet slammed UK change to Portuguese travel as "huge blow."
UAE's Embassy in London welcomed over 500 friends from the UK, UAE, and internationally to a grand reception at London’s famed Natural History Museum in South Kensington to commemorate 51 years since the founding of the UAE.
"On this day, we commemorate the bright memory of the Founding Fathers, led by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his brothers, the Founders of the Nation, as well as their determination, wisdom and vision that established the Union.”
President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said that the 51st UAE National Day is a day to recall lessons of the past, and look at the present with awareness and contemplation, while looking to the future with hope, optimism and confidence.