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India races to find UK arrivals to stop new strain of virus

India races to find UK arrivals to stop new strain of virus

Indian authorities on Wednesday attempted to trace tens of thousands of people who entered the country from Britain in recent weeks, as cases of a rapidly spreading new strain of coronavirus doubled in 24 hours.

They have launched efforts to locate some 33,000 people who flew to India in the past month from the UK after 20 people tested positive for the more virulent new strain, an increase of 14 cases since Tuesday.

India also extended the ban on flights to and from Britain for a week until January 7 on Wednesday in a bid to combat the new strain, which British authorities say is not more deadly, but spreads more easily.

"A full contact tracing has been initiated for fellow travelers, family contacts and others," the Indian Ministry of Health said Tuesday, referring to those who flew between November 25 and December 23, when Delhi suspended the air links with Great Britain.

It's unclear how many arrivals from Britain it has tracked so far.

Delhi wants to learn about its moves to prevent a broader outbreak in a country that is battling the world's second highest Covid-19 count.

Britain is home to a huge Indian community and several daily flights take hundreds of people from London to New Delhi and Mumbai.

More than 30 countries have suspended air links with Britain due to the new strain, which British medical officials say is "out of control".

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said any resumption of flights to and from Britain would be "strictly regulated".

Of the 33,000 passengers who entered the country in the past month, more than 130 people tested positive for coronavirus.

Cases have been reported across India, but most are in Delhi and Bangalore.

India has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the world behind the United States, with more than 10 million infections and 145,000 deaths.

The Indian government has not yet approved any vaccines, but hopes to start immunizations early next year.

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