Why are flights still arriving from India? Why travel from India to UK is still allowed after red list ruling

Flights from India have continued to land in the UK at a rate of 4.5 per day since the travel traffic light system came into force on 23 April

More than one 100 direct flights from India have landed in the UK since the country was placed on the government’s red list over three weeks ago.

India was added to the list following the emergence of a new Covid variant, which is feared to be 50 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain, and more than 2,300 cases have already been detected in the UK.

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Why are flights from India still arriving?

The government did not ban direct flights flights from India when it was added to the red list (Photo: Getty Images)

The traffic light system for travel came into force on 23 April, but it was not accompanied by an outright ban on direct flights.

As such, analysis by LBC has found that flights from India have continued to land in the UK at a rate of 4.5 per day, with 110 touching down in the three-and-a-half weeks since the travel list was announced.

Additionally, a further 16 flights landed in the UK between that decision being announced on 19 April, and the change coming into force four days later.

Flights were also permitted from neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are also both on the red list.

Travellers have continued to arrive from India in the UK because the government did not put an outright ban on direct flights in place when the country was first added to the list, despite flights being banned for 11 other red listed countries where new variants emerged, including Brazil and South Africa.

On Tuesday (18 May), The Mirror reported that three planes potentially packed with passengers from Mumbai and Delhi arrived at Heathrow Airport this morning, a total of 26 days after India was added to the red list.

NHS Test and Trace figures show that in the two weeks from 22 April, the day before the travel ban came into effect, to 5 May, a total of 4,258 people who arrived in England from India were tested for coronavirus.

Given that everyone is meant to be tested, the figure should be the same as the number of passengers.

Of those who arrived from India in the two-week period, 299 of those travellers (seven per cent) tested positive for Covid.

If this trend continued for the most recent fortnight, almost 8,500 passengers would be expected to have arrived from India since the country was added to the red list, and around 600 of them are likely to have been infected with Covid, analysis suggests.

Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residency rights in the UK, are allowed into the UK having travelled from, or transited through, India.

Concerns over airport mixing

Fears have been raised that passengers arriving from India will have mixed with others travelling to and from other parts of the world in airports, raising concerns about potential spread of the virus.

While travellers arriving from red list countries are required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, there are worries that high-risk travellers will have already mixed with other passenger and airport staff before isolating, as airport terminals are currently shared by those arriving from green, amber and red listed locations.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister suggested on Wednesday (19 May) that it was the responsibility of airports to ensure that arrival queues were Covid secure.

Criticism of the government's handling of international travel and the traffic light system comes amid reports that thousands of people had headed for destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and the United States after foreign travel resumed in England, Wales and Scotland on Monday (17 May).

None of these countries are on the green list, which is currently limited to just 12 destinations, but more than 150 flights are reported to have departed on Monday.

Which countries are on the red list?

If you have been in a country or territory on the red list in the last 10 days, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK.

The following countries are currently on the government red list:

Angola

Argentina

Bangladesh

Bolivia

Botswana

Brazil

Burundi

Cape Verde

Chile

Colombia

Congo (Democratic Republic)

Ecuador

Eswatini

Ethiopia

French Guiana

Guyana

India

Kenya

Lesotho

Malawi

Maldives

Mozambique

Namibia

Nepal

Oman

Pakistan

Panama

Paraguay

Peru

Philippines

Qatar

Rwanda

Seychelles

Somalia

South Africa

Suriname

Tanzania

Turkey

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Uruguay

Venezuela

Zambia Zimbabwe

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