A police officer checks the temperature of a municipal worker who arrived to receive COVID-19 vaccine at a private hospital in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

18 Feb 2021 12:29PM(Updated: 18 Feb 2021 12:30PM)

NEW DELHI: India will make COVID-19 molecular tests mandatory for people arriving directly or indirectly from the UK, South Africa and Brazil in a bid to contain the spread of more infectious virus variants found in those countries.

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

READ: India, pharmacy of the world, falls behind on COVID-19 vaccinations at home

READ: India to multiply COVID-19 vaccinations amid coverage concernsThe government has said the South African and Brazilian strains can more easily infect a person’s lungs than the UK mutation. India has so far reported 187 cases of infection with the UK variant.

The government late on Wednesday (Feb 17) said airlines would be required from next week to segregate inbound travellers from those countries.

India does not have direct flights with Brazil and South Africa, and most people travelling from these countries generally transit through Middle Eastern airports.

“All the travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating in United Kingdom, Europe or the Middle East shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival”, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement.

All flyers will also have to carry a recent COVID-19 negative test report before boarding any flight to India, except in extraordinary circumstances like death in a family.

India has so far reported about 11 million coronavirus cases and more than 155,000 deaths. Cases have come down sharply since a mid-September peak of nearly 100,000 a day.

READ: India’s dramatic fall in COVID-19 cases leaves experts stumped

A government serological survey released this month, however, said nearly 300 million of India’s 1.35 billion people may already have been infected by the virus.

The country has also administered 9.2 million vaccine doses since starting its campaign on Jan 16.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its developmentsDownload our app or subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak: