Jan 05, 2021 17:44 UTC
  • Iran extends suspension of UK flights as minister confirms first case of British COVID

Iran has extended a two-week suspension of flights to and from the UK until the end of January due to concerns over the new fast-spreading coronavirus strain, the head of the country’s Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) says.

The decision came as reports said Iran had detected the first case of infection with the new strain of the coronavirus found in Britain. On Tuesday, Health Minister Saeed Namaki confirmed the case. 

National flag carrier Iran Air and Turkish Airlines, which carry out regular flights between Tehran and destinations in Britain, suspended them on Dec. 20 “due to the new circumstances in the spread of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom".

The suspension was extended on Monday, CAO head Turaj Dehghani Zanganeh told Iran’s official IRNA news agency. 

"We do not accept any travelers from the UK either by direct or connecting flight," he said. “We have informed all domestic and foreign airlines as well as travel agents that no passengers originating from London should enter Tehran."

If an airline or travel agency is found to have sold ticket or transported a passenger from Britain to Iran, it will definitely be dealt with, the official said.

Moreover, any traveler from destinations in the UK will be quarantined and the flight license of the offending airline will be revoked, he added.

Like many other international airlines, Turkish Airlines has suspended UK flights until the end of January. Dehghani Zanganeh said Iran has also asked Qatari and UAE airlines not to bring any passengers from the UK.  

The Islamic Republic, the official said, is using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 tests or checking passports to identify travelers coming via connecting flights.

"If the Ministry of Health deems the situation critical, the cancellation of flights will be extended again," he said.

On Tuesday, Iranians took a sigh of relief after health officials said the coronavirus death toll had declined back to double digits for the first time in months.

“The number of deaths from the corona fell to 98 today, which is the result of the efforts of our colleagues, who will be appreciated in a timely manner,” Namaki said. 

However, he admitted Iran’s first case of the more contagious strain of the coronavirus in “a dear compatriot who had come from England and is hospitalized in a private clinic”.

“His test of the mutated strain of Covid-19 was confirmed by our colleagues,” Namaki said in televised remarks.

“This patient, aware of the condition, had isolated himself from friends and family from the first day, and fortunately, there were no symptoms of the disease among his close contacts,” the minister added.

Also, a medical doctor suspected of having the new strain in Iran’s western Kurdistan province had tested negative.

“All his 240 close contacts were also examined, but fortunately their test was also negative,” Namaki said. 

Iran detected 6,113 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 days, Health Ministry Spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said Tuesday, raising the overall number of infections to 1,255,000. The new deaths of 98 also took the overall toll to 55,784, she added.