India Covid variant: Why is India not on the red list? New variant fears ahead of PM visit

India: Expert warns of 'rapidly rising' coronavirus cases

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A coronavirus variant with possibly worrying mutations has now been found across the UK. A total of 77 cases of this variant were found in the country. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to visit the country for several days during the last week of April, but now the trip has been scaled back in the face of rising infection rates. Express.co.uk has compiled a guide to explain why India is not on the travel red list.

The coronavirus variant, known as B.1.617, was first detected in India but has spread to other countries including the USA.

The variant concerns experts because it has two mutations in the spike protein which may boost the virus’ ability to escape the body’s immune responses.

Experts claim the variant is having a significant effect prompting the very sharp spike in the epidemic in India.

In total, 77 cases of the variant were recorded in the UK, up to April 14, of which 73 were in England and four in Scotland.

The variant has been detected in at least five Indian states across the country.

Overall 217,000 new cases were reported in India on Thursday and health authorities confirmed 7.3 percent of the population has received at least one Covid vaccine dose so far.

Public Health England officials have designated it a “variant under investigation” rather than a “variant of concern” such as the South African and Brazilian variants.

The body said there is currently no evidence to suggest that disease from the newly identified variant is more serious than previous ones, nor is there current evidence to suggest vaccines are less likely to work against it.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant featured two “escape mutations” including E484Q and L452R, which “are causing people to be concerned”.

He added: “There’s laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations.

“Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by the vaccine.

“But we don’t know that for certain at the moment.”

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Mr Johnson is due to travel to India in the last week of April where he is expected to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The programme will now be “shorter” with a Government spokesperson saying it will be focused on “high-level discussions with the Indian government and Indian business leaders”.

The bulk of the meetings will be held on April 26 with the UK aiming to clinch closer ties with the Asian country as a result of the trip.

The visit had been scheduled for late January originally but was delayed amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Why is India not on the red list?

Given the rising rates of coronavirus and emergence of the concerning variant, many have called on India to be added as a red list country.

Journalist Robert Peston said: “With India’s Covid19 cases at more than 200,000 a day, and worries about a new strain there, it is extraordinary it has not been put on the red list for travel.

“The conspiracy theory from senior Tories is that the PM wants to avoid it going on.”

Westminster correspondent Ben Kentish tweeted: “India *still* not being on the UK red list despite reporting worrying new variants and 200,000 new cases a day raises serious questions about the purpose of the red list and hotel quarantine policy. If you’re not going to include the riskiest countries, what’s the point of it?”

Another Twitter user wrote: “Can anyone explain why India isn’t on the red list of countries for quarantine purposes? A new VOC (with cases in the uk already), >200k new cases every day, yet there are multiple daily flights from India. Why oh why do we continue to get it wrong time after time?”

Science professor and epidemiologist Dr Nisreen Alwan tweeted: “I can’t believe that India with over 216K covid infections in a single day (including double mutant variant) is still not on the UK’s red travel list. This is supposed to be about trade right? But don’t we all know by now that trade is down when health is down? What am I missing?”

The current red list countries includes:

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Bangladesh
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ecuador
  • Eswatini
  • Ethiopia
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Suriname
  • Tanzania
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe.

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