New Delhi: Following the discovery of a new and highly infectious strain of the coronavirus, India on Monday banned all flights from the United Kingdom till December 31. The suspension will come into effect from 11.59 pm on December 22.

"Considering the prevailing situation in UK, the government of India has decided that all flights originating from UK to India to be suspended till 31st December," said aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation. "Consequently flights from India to UK shall stand temporarily suspended during above said period."

Hundreds of passengers in the United Kingdom rushed to the Heathrow airport overnight as they tried to catch the last flights to Europe before borders closed to British travellers, reported The Sun.

Meanwhile, asking people not to panic, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan Monday said the government was on alert and the authorities are keeping a close watch about the new strain of coronavirus that has emerged in the United Kingdom.

A joint monitoring group on COVID-19 had met this morning to discuss the mutant coronavirus that has spread rapidly in the UK, sending cases rocketing within days.

Much is unknown about the strain, but experts say current vaccines should still be effective against it.