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NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India said on Friday it will resume international passenger flights from mid-December with COVID-19 linked curbs for “at risk” countries, and ordered tightened screening at borders as fears over a new coronavirus variant spread globally.
The federal health ministry said reports of mutations in the variant, identified as B.1.1.529, had “serious public health implications”, and asked states to adopt rigorous screening and testing for all passengers from South Africa and other “at risk” countries.
“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states late on Thursday.
But India’s civil aviation ministry said it had decided to let airlines resume scheduled international flights from Dec. 15, lifting a nearly two-year-old ban imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The resumption of flights would be based on the coronavirus risk levels of individual countries, according to a formal government order.
Some countries in Europe and Asia have rushed to tighten border controls and restrict travel nL1N2SH089 because of the new variant.
India’s foreign ministry said there was no immediate information on steps the government was taking.
“This is a developing incident,” foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told a news conference.
The federal health ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for further comment.
On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/uk-flags-concern-over-newly-identified-coronavirus-variant-2021-11-25 said the new variant has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based and could make existing vaccines less effective.
Britain has banned flights from six African countries, and asked returning British travellers from those destinations to quarantine.
India, the world’s second-worst affected country by COVID-19, posted the smallest rise in new cases https://www.reuters.com/world/india/india-logs-slimmest-rise-covid-19-cases-543-days-despite-festivals-2021-11-23 in one-and-a-half years this week, due to increased vaccinations and antibodies in a large section of its population from previous infections.
Its total cases of coronavirus reached 34.56 million on Friday. India’s daily caseload has halved since September and it reported 10,549 new cases on Friday.
Earlier this month, India identified 10 countries “at risk” including Europe, China, South Africa, and New Zealand, among others, and has opened its borders to 99 countries overall.
Indian shares fell more than 2% on Friday, in line with declines in markets across Asia as investors fled risky assets panicking over the potential impact of the new variant.
(Reporting by Neha Arora; Additional reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Giles Elgood and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
NEW DELHI (AP) — A special flight carrying evacuees to India who had been stranded abroad because of the coronavirus skidded off a runway and split in two while landing Friday in heavy rain in the southern state of Kerala, killing at least 16 passengers and injuring 123 more, police said.
Abdul Karim, a senior Kerala state police officer, said the dead included one of the pilots of the Air India Express flight. He said at least 15 of the injured were in critical condition, and that rescue operations were over.
The two-year-old Boeing 737-800 flew from Dubai to Kozhikode, also called Calicut, in Kerala, India’s southernmost state, the airline said.
A similar tragedy to Friday’s was narrowly avoided at the same airport a year ago, when an Air India Express flight suffered a tail strike upon landing. None of the 180 passengers of that flight were injured.
Kozhikode’s 2,850-meter (9,350-foot) runway is on a flat hilltop with deep gorges on either side ending in a 34-meter (112-foot) drop.
Tim O’Donnell, The Week•March 7, 2020
While new cases appear to be slowing in China, the country is still reeling from fallout and criticism over its response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
That was on full display Saturday when a five-story hotel in Quanzhou, China, used to quarantine people potentially exposed to COVID-19 after traveling to the epicenter, Hubei province, collapsed Saturday, reportedly trapping around 70 people. It is not clear if anyone has died, but Reuters reports 34 people have been rescued in the hours after the hotel collapsed.
Hong Kong’s airport struggled to reopen on Tuesday with more than 300 flights cancelled, a day after a pro-democracy protest brought the air transport hub to a complete standstill.
The city’s leader Carrie Lam denounced the demonstrations saying that “lawbreaking activites in the name of freedom” were damaging the rule of law, and that the Asian financial hub’s recovery from anti-government protests could take a long time.
On Tuesday morning, stranded passengers were seen lining up to catch their delayed flights, as airport authorities announced that it will implement rescheduling while blaming demonstrators for the disruption at one of the world’s busiest airports.
Hong Kong is preparing for massive flight cancellations, commuter chaos, traffic jams and service disruptions on Monday when the largest citywide strike in decades takes aim at public transport networks and crucial industries to protest against the government’s extradition bill fiasco.
The airport is expected to reduce flight operations to just one runway from two. Based on estimates, this could mean half of flights on Cathay Pacific Airways, the city’s flag carrier, could be affected, in the most direct blow to travellers, as concerns about the near nine-week anti-government protests gain international attention.