Environment Minister George Eustice has said he is ‘okay’ with India being left off the ‘red travel list’ despite a worrying Covid-19 mutation first identified there being found in the UK.

Around 70 cases of the variant have been discovered in the UK, which has led to calls for India to be put under the strictest travel conditions. 

Moving the Asian country on to the so-called ‘red list’ would mean only British nationals could return from the country, and those doing so must pay to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days.

Mr Eustice told LBC radio station the decision was ‘under regular review’, adding: ‘I think for now we are okay, but should the advice change, we will change.’

Probed on the matter on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the Environment Secretary said: ‘There are quite a lot of robust tests and checks for anybody coming into the country.’

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Speaking during the morning broadcast round, Mr Eustice said there is no evidence that the Indian variant of coronavirus can ‘get around’ the current vaccines.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to travel to India in the last week of April in a trip that has already been cut short as infections in the country continue to climb.

Mr Eustice also said that despite rising infection rates in India, ‘it is appropriate’ that Johnson’s planned trip to the country should go ahead later this month.

Responding to concerns that the discovery of the Indian variant in the UK may lead to the delay of the Government’s lockdown easing, the Environment Secretary admitted that it is ‘too early to say’ whether all hospitality businesses can open on May 17.

Mr Eustice said the Government is ‘on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme’, adding in an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘But we are being a bit cautious here.

‘So although we have now got 60% of the adult population vaccinated we do just have to keep a close eye on these variants of concern.

‘Also, see what the impacts are of the easements we have just made, the loosenings we have just made, before moving to the next stage.’

Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), which provides evidence on coronavirus to the Government’s Sage committee, said as much information about the new variant must be gathered ‘as quickly as possible’.

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He told BBC Breakfast: ‘What’s concerning about the Indian variant is there appear to be two mutations which… may make the vaccines less effective, and may make the virus more transmissible.’

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, added that whilst there is not yet enough data to officially classify the new Indian strain as a ‘variant of concern’, investigations are ongoing.

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