India has officially been added to the Covid “red list”, requiring UK and Irish passengers arriving from the country to enter hotel quarantine.
The strict travel curbs were introduced on Friday as infection rates and the death toll in India continue to soar.
Except for UK and Irish residents or British citizens, people who have been in red list countries in the past 10 days are banned from travelling to the UK.
Four airlines asked for a total of eight extra flights to arrive at Heathrow before the 4am cut-off, however it is understood Heathrow declined the airlines’ requests to ensure existing pressures at the border were not exacerbated.
55 cases of Indian variant found in UK
India has broken the record for the world’s highest number of daily recorded coronavirus cases and has also seen the emergence of a new “double mutant” variant.
The variant – also known as B.1.617 – was first noted internationally in October and first identified in the UK on February 22.
It has 13 mutations including two in the virus’ spike protein known as E494Q and L452R.
Public Health England (PHE) said on Thursday 55 cases of the Indian variant were found in the UK in the week to April 14.
PHE experts are currently unsure whether any of the mutations mean the variant can be transmitted more easily, is more deadly or can evade the effectiveness of vaccines or natural immunity.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to cancel a trip to India on Monday as the country struggles to cope with a dramatic surge in cases.