Saturday, February 27

Health ministry meeting today after spread of mutant coronavirus strain in UK

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The Union health ministry called for an emergency meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) on Monday morning after panic spread over a new mutant strain of coronavirus that is “out of control” in the UK, according to officials.

The JMG meeting will be chaired by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS). World Health Organisation’s (WHO) India representative Dr Roderico H Ofrin, who is also a member of the JMG, is likely to participate in the meeting, according to news agency PTI.

Over 16 million Britons will be required to stay home for Christmas after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was adamant until Friday that close households would be able to mix over the festive period, made a U-turn and cancelled plans to allow families to see each other. As new restrictions came into force in London after the government warned of the new strain, several European Union nations banned flights from the UK on Sunday.

While the Netherlands announced a ban on all UK passenger flights, Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours and also halted train links to Britain.

France suspended all travel links with the UK for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday and all flights coming from the country were banned in Ireland for a period of 48 hours. According to BBC, Italy blocked all flights from the UK till January 6. Germany, Kuwait, Israel and Austria have also imposed similar restrictions.

Meanwhile, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the preventive measures could stay in place until the virus vaccine is fully rolled out. “We acted very quickly and decisively,” he said. “All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant,” he added.

The JMG, which was formed by the government to review the global and Indian situation after the outbreak of the virus, and provide recommendations on technical matters to the health ministry, will discuss the issue of the mutated variant of the coronavirus reported from the UK.