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International travel ban: More countries may impose restrictions on India due to COVID-19 2nd wave

New Zealand, Hong Kong, the UK and the US have either banned flight services to and from India, or have advised citizens against traveling. The list may become longer.

April 20, 2021 / 12:59 PM IST
A study published in Moneycontrol showed that each flight from India carried an average of four infected passengers, the second highest after Nepal.

A study published in Moneycontrol showed that each flight from India carried an average of four infected passengers, the second highest after Nepal.

International flights to and from India may increasingly get restricted as rising COVID-19 numbers make governments in several countries wary.

Flights from India are already banned in New Zealand, Hong Kong and the UK, which made the 'difficult but vital decision' on April 19. Earlier in the day, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a state visit to India.

Early on April 20, The United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory for all its citizens to avoid travels to India.

"Travelers should avoid all travel to India," the advisory said. "Because of the current situation in India even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India."

On April 19, India reported 2.59 lakh cases, with many states continuing to report new highs nearly each day. Sensing the urgency, and perhaps the shortcomings of the earlier system, the government has opened up vaccination to everyone above the age of 18, from May 1.

Close

Industry observers expect more governments to announce a ban on flights, or travel advisories, unless there is a dramatic arrest in cases in India. "Nearly all international flights out of India, have at least one case of an infected passenger," said a senior industry executive who declined to be identified.

This report in Toronto Sun, for instance, said that India was the largest single source of infected passengers traveling to Canada. One-third of the international flights with COVID-19 positive passengers landing in Canada, originated from India. The report was published on March 20, and the pandemic has gained pace since then.

"The UK and cities in North America are among the most popular destinations for Indians, and thus have the highest number of flights under the air bubble arrangements that the Indian government has put in," an executive from a travel consultancy pointed out.

India has air bubble arrangements with 28 countries.

Similar instances

By November last year, Hong Kong had banned flights from India in four different instances, starting from August. This had brought to question the efficacy of RT-PCR tests, as all passengers were expected to carry a negative report to be allowed boarding.

This study published in Moneycontrol showed that each flight from India carried an average of four infected passengers, the second highest after Nepal.

Wuhan in China, and Dubai banned flights for a while from India.

Airlines, like then, continue to reiterate that they have been following the protocol laid down by the government.

“Vistara ensures strict compliance with all guidelines issued by the Indian as well as the destination countries’ authorities for all flights, including all charter flights to and from Hong Kong. We will continue to be guided by any new requirements that may be introduced," a Vistara spokesperson told Moneycontrol, after Hong Kong's latest ban, which stays till May 3.

The Hong Kong government's decision came after a Vistara flight from Delhi had 47 passengers testing positive after landing. Some tested positive while in quarantine.

In the case of the New Zealand ban on April 8, 17 of the new 23 cases that were reported the earlier day, were from India. The country had not reported any local case for about 40 days.

These restrictions will further hit air travel in India. Domestic market, which was in a consistent recovery mode, is now again going through a turbulence. Bookings on many routes have plummeted by more than half. International travel was recovering even slower.

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Prince Mathews Thomas heads the corporate bureau of Moneycontrol. He has been covering the business world for 16 years, having worked in The Hindu Business Line, Forbes India, Dow Jones Newswires, The Economic Times, Business Standard and The Week. A Chevening scholar, Prince has also authored The Consolidators, a book on second generation entrepreneurs.
first published: Apr 20, 2021 12:59 pm

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