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India finds six cases of virus variant

 India finds six cases of virus variant

India has found six cases of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus, which has led to border closures around the world, in people arriving from Britain and will likely extend a flight ban to protect against it, authorities said Tuesday.

The six infected people had been kept in isolation, the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding that their fellow travelers were being tracked.

"His close contacts have also been quarantined," the ministry said.

India had suspended all flights from Britain until the end of the month due to concerns about the infectious variant of the virus, but about 33,000 passengers had flown since late November, before the ban was enforced, the ministry said.

Of those arrivals, 114 people tested positive for the coronavirus and their samples were being checked for the new variant, which has been detected in parts of Europe and Asia, she said.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the ban on flights from Britain would likely remain in effect through the New Year.

"I anticipate a small extension," Puri told reporters.

"I don't expect that extension to be long or indefinite."

With 10.22 million confirmed infections, India has the second highest burden of novel coronavirus cases in the world, behind only the United States.

But on Tuesday it reported 16,432 new cases, the lowest daily increase since June 25, the Health Ministry said.

More than 148,150 people have died of COVID-19 in India, according to ministry data.

Health authorities expect to start a vaccination campaign for some 300 million people early next month, and the Serum Institute of India, which is applying the Oxford / AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, awaits its emergency approval in a few days.

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