UK Home Office reassures Indians stranded by new coronavirus variant

UK Home Office reassures Indians stranded by new coronavirus variant

The UK Home Office has reassured Indians caught up in the suspension of all flights between the UK and India along with nearly 40 other countries, as they react to a new rapid-spreading variant of coronavirus detected in parts of England.

Anyone on a UK visa that may be set to expire within the December-end deadline of the Indian flight suspension will be covered by the grace period extension until January 31, 2021.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Throughout pandemic, we have introduced measures to help those who have been impacted by global travel and health restrictions, such as the relaxation of the rules on switching visas in country, enabling those who wish to stay in the UK to submit an application from within the UK.

“In August, we put an exceptional assurance process in place to protect the status of those who have leave expiring before the 31 January and are unable to leave the UK.”

Holiday plans

Many Indian students booked to travel back home to friends and family in India over the Christmas and New Year period are among those caught up in the suspension. This is annually one of the busiest periods for UK-India air travel, with flights booked well in advance to make the most of the annual holiday season.

Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK), said:

“Significant concern is being observed from Indian students both inbound and outbound. Many students had planned to travel either back to India to be with their families over the holiday period or from India to the UK in order to start settling into the country ahead of the commencement of the January session.”

The Indian High Commission in London issued several messages on its social media platforms with updates from the Ministry of Civil Aviation in India.

“This suspension to start w.e.f. 23.59 hours, 22nd December 2020. Consequently flights from India to UK shall stand temporarily suspended during above said period,” it said, in a statement in response to queries by concerned travellers if inbound flights from India to the UK may be allowed to land.

Keep calm

Indian Diaspora groups in the UK urged for calm and advised Global Indians to follow the new lockdown rules, which mean a majority of the UK is under the strictest lockdown with all non-essential businesses now closed.

Kuldeep Shekhawat, President of the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) diaspora group, said: “Due to a new mutant, coronavirus is moving fast and wide in the UK. I would like to request the Indian community not to take it lightly.

“Please don’t panic. These are very difficult times and all possible precautions should be taken and all British government guidelines should be adhered to. The flight ban is in place just for your safety. Both the government are monitoring the situation very closely and fresh guidelines will be issued as the situation moves on.”

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