As India resumes flights to the UK from Friday, though in a restricted manner, after keeping them suspended for about a fortnight in the wake of detection of new variant of coronavirus, a majority of people want flights banned from the countries having cases with new variants, according to a survey. The findings are based on the responses received from over 8,000 citizens across 207 districts in the country, online platform LocalCircles said on Friday. Significantly, Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal too had on Thursday urged the Centre to suspend the flights between India and the UK till January 31 in view of the extremely serious COVID-19 situation in that country. India temporarily suspended flights to the UK following similar moves by many nations like Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium as a precautionary measure amid concerns over the highly infectious new mutated strain of coronavirus, the B.1.1.7.
The total number of UK returnees having tested positive for B.1.1.7 variant in the country has reached 82. Despite this, the Centre announced resumption of flights between the two countries from January 8, LocalCircles said. Stating that in its survey two days prior to the government announcing temporary suspension of the flights to the UK on December 22, 50 per cent of respondents had suggested suspension of bubble flights, among others, from the UK and other countries. With the decision of the government to resume bubble international flights from January 8, also with countries impacted with the new strain of coronavirus, basis feedback from citizens, LocalCircles conducted another poll to understand citizens’ pulse and if their perception to operate international bubble flights with impacted countries has changed in this 15-day period, it said. As per the survey, as many as 64 per cent people want bubble flights shut with all countries that have reported cases of the B.1.1.7 strain while 32 per cent citizens are in favour of continuing to run these flights with similar or reduced schedule, LocalCircles said. Over 40 countries around the world have reported B.1.1.7 cases during this 15-day period, the online platform said.
The Union Health Ministry has already issued a guideline that mandates all passengers travelling from the UK to India from January 8 to 31 to undergo a mandatory self-paid RT-PCR test at the airport, which costs Rs 3,400 per passenger. Given the highly transmissible nature of B.1.1.7 strain and now reports of even other strains like the E484K, many people are concerned that if these strains start spreading in India, given the population density, we could have a new wave of COVID at a time when India has seen over 250 per cent decline in cases in the last three months, said Sachin Taparia, Founder and Chairman, LocalCircles. According to the survey, “some 45 per cent citizens said they prefer shutting all such flights to and from countries which have cases of the new B.1.1.7 coronavirus strain till January 31 and reassess then, and another 19 per cent also said to keep all such flights shut till January 31.” Also, another 19 per cent suggested instituting mandatory COVID-19 negative test certificate at boarding and mandatory test or quarantine at arrival and keep flights running per schedule. Nearly 13 per cent maintained that flights should be kept running per a reduced frequency but suggested instituting mandatory COVID-19 negative test certificate at boarding and mandatory test or quarantine at arrival, it said.