The Union health ministry called for an emergency meeting on Monday, December 21, after panic spread over a new mutant strain of coronavirus that is "out of control" in the United Kingdom. The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) meeting will be chaired by the Director-General of Health Services (DGHS).
The JMG, which was formed by the centre to review the situation after the outbreak of the virus, and provide recommendations to the health ministry, will discuss the issue of the mutated variant of the coronavirus reported from the UK which has led to a spike in infection rate there.
Over 16 million people in Britain will be asked to stay home for Christmas after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who initially allowed close households to meet during the festive period, made a U-turn and cancelled plans to allow families to see each other, NDTV reported.
"It seems that the spread is now being driven by the new variant of the virus," Johnson said.
"Unfortunately the new strain was out of control. We have got to get it under control," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced.
As fresh curbs came into force in London after the government warned of the new strain, several European Union nations banned flights from the UK on Sunday, December 20.
France suspended all travel links with the UK for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday and all flights coming from the country were banned in Ireland for a period of 48 hours. Germany, Kuwait, Israel and Austria also imposed similar restrictions.
Meanwhile, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that the preventive measures need to be in place until the vaccine against the virus is rolled out.
"We acted very quickly and decisively," he said. "All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant," he added.
The World Health Organization has also requested its European members to strengthen measures against the new variant of COVID-19 circulating in Britain. A spokeswoman for WHO Europe said that "across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches."
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,685,785 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.
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