With the outbreak of the new mutant coronavirus B.1.1.7 detected in the United Kingdom, its Government has imposed Tier 4 lockdowns across affected areas of the country. A report from the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says this mutant coronavirus is 56 per cent more transmissible than other strains. The B.1.1.7 mutation of Coronavirus has been detected in other countries such as South Africa, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia, besides the UK but the virus’ spread in the UK is significant with over 50 per cent of the cases reported now are of this new mutation. The news has spread across the world again with some experts even calling it COVID-20 and a cause for worry at a time when vaccination drives have just begun in several countries. The news prompted nations such as Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, along with India and other countries to halt flights and travel to and from the UK, to avoid the outbreak of the mutant coronavirus B.1.1.17. India’s ban on flights from and to the UK commenced on Dec 23rd, 2020 and is currently on till Dec 31st, 2020. It must be noted that post lockdown, the Government of India hasn’t yet allowed regular operation of international flights, instead it operates transport bubbles with 23 countries, including the UK via the Vande Bharat Mission.
Local Circles conducted a survey to understand the impact of this new strain of coronavirus on international travel plans of Indians in the next three months. The platform has observed an increase in citizens’ posts suggesting that many may hold back on their travel plans to any international countries as fear and anxiety of getting infected by this new strain as well as the possibility of flight bans from other airline hubs like Dubai, Singapore, Paris, etc. has increased. The survey also tried to understand people’s plan to undertake domestic travel in the next three months as with reducing case-loads and COVID fatigue setting in, many more have started to travel since October. The survey received more than 15,000+ responses from consumers located across 204 districts of India.
The first question that asked consumers “What is your situation in regard to undertaking international travel in the next 3 months”, received 7,820 responses. 71 per cent of consumers said that they have no plans to undertake international travel in the next 3 months. Only 2 per cent said they have bookings and will likely travel, while another 2 per cent said they have bookings but may cancel based on COVID situation. Further, 16 per cent said they had plans but will likely not travel due to COVID, while 7 per cent said they might travel based on COVID situation. The aggregate feedback of consumers suggest that the new virus strain that was recently detected in the UK and related flight bans, the majority planning international travel in the next 3 months are likely to hold back.