UPDATE 1-India to test travelers from Brazil, South Africa and the UK after detecting new strains of the virus

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* New rules will come into effect next week – Ministry of Health

* Total number of new cases increased by one week to 12,881 in the past 24 hours (add latest case numbers, investigation results in paragraphs 7, 10)

NEW DELHI, February 18 (Reuters) – India will make COVID-19 molecular testing mandatory for people arriving directly or indirectly from the UK, South Africa and Brazil in a bid to contain the spread of variants of most infectious viruses found in these countries.

India, which has reported the highest number of overall COVID-19 cases after the United States, detected the South African variant in four people last month and the Brazilian variant in one person this month.

The government has said that the South African and Brazilian strains can infect a person’s lungs more easily than the British mutation. India has so far reported 187 cases of infection with the British variant.

The government said Wednesday evening that airlines would be required from next week to separate inbound travelers from those countries. India does not have direct flights with Brazil and South Africa, and most people coming from these countries usually pass through airports in the Middle East.

“All travelers arriving / transiting on flights from the UK, Europe or the Middle East will be subject to mandatory self-paid confirmatory molecular testing on arrival,” India’s Ministry of Justice said. Health and Family in a press release.

All travelers will also need to carry a recent negative COVID report before boarding a flight to India, except in extraordinary circumstances such as death in a family.

Coronavirus infections in India increased by 12,881 in the past 24 hours to around 11 million, while deaths increased from 101 to more than 156,000. It was the largest daily increase in cases in a week. The states of Kerala and Maharashtra have seen a recent increase in cases probably due to the reopening of economic and other activities. The government’s serological survey released this month found that nearly 300 million of India’s 1.35 billion people may have already been infected with the virus. The country has also administered 9.2 million doses of the vaccine since the start of its campaign on January 16.

A survey by the New Delhi-based online platform LocalCircles, published Thursday, found that half of its 8,211 respondents were ready to be vaccinated, against a 69% vaccine hesitancy in the first week of January.

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