India will be added to the UK’s “red list” for travel, Matt Hancock has announced.
It means from 4am on Friday April 23, only British, Irish and third-country nationals with residency rights travelling from India can enter England.
Anyone arriving in the country will be required to self-isolate in a government-approved hotel for ten days.
Hancock told the Commons on Monday: “We’ve recently seen a new variant first identified in India.
“We’ve now detected 103 cases of this variant, of which again the vast majority have links to international travel and have been picked up by our testing at the border.”
The health secretary said the samples have been analysed to see if the new variant has any “concerning characteristics” such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.
He added: “After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list.”
Boris Johnson cancelled his visit to India next week, as the coronavirus crisis deepened in India and concerns grew over the new variant.
The already-curtailed trip was postponed indefinitely on Monday, but the prime minister said he planned to hold a call with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi ahead of a rescheduling “as and when circumstances allow”.
Johnson had until that point resisted demands to hold the talks, aimed at fostering closer ties with the nation, on a virtual basis amid calls to impose greater restrictions on travel to and from India.
The cancellation came as New Delhi entered a week-long lockdown to tackle a surge in cases and prevent a collapse of the capital’s health system, as India reported 273,810 new infections – the highest daily rise since pandemic began.