The Canadian government has suspended direct flights from India till July 21, 2021. However, travellers from India can take a connecting flight to the country on condition that they get tested for Covid in the last transit country in their travel itinerary - molecular tests done in India are not valid for entry into Canada currently.
News of nearly 200 Indian travellers/students stuck at Belgrade airport after Serbia imposed a seven-day mandatory quarantine has raised important questions about the dos and don’ts of travel in the time of Covid.
Shikhar Aggarwal, joint managing director, BLS International, a visa, consular, technology company with 46 client countries and operations in 66 countries, says he has an essential travel checklist to help avoid such situations in Covid-time travel.
Here are the key points from his checklist:
- Before booking/flying, run through the website of the local embassy of your destination country. These official websites are the most credible source of updated information.
- Check with local service provider (for example, if you are heading to Spain, go to the BLS International website for the latest information)
- Check government of India’s Bureau of Immigration website by the Ministry of Home Affairs for any advisory pertaining to travel and visa restrictions.
- Check National Centre for Disease Control website for Covid vaccination updates, travel advisory updates, guidelines on vaccinations that may be required before travelling internationally.
- Check with the airline you are using about any quarantine policy changes. Do this when you are at the check-in counter from your country of departure.
- If you are taking a connecting flight from a country, check the country’s rules and regulations for quarantining. Most countries have stringent transit guidelines. Consider the transit guidelines as equally important as that of the destination country.
- Register yourself with the Indian mission in the destination country. Check here: https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/4MHASOPs05052020.pdf
- Check with your travel insurance provider about what’s covered/included, and what isn't (see below).
- Keep phone numbers of insurance and airlines handy.
- Travel light. Put your postal address, contact details inside/outside your luggage.
Red list: Several countries have put India on their red list due to the higher number of Covid-19 cases. Check the list and the mandatory guidelines. SoPs (standard operating procedures) might be different for Indians than travellers from another country.
Travel insurance: “It’s likely that the health insurance won’t cover the cost while travelling abroad. Depending on the travel, one must consider buying medical evacuation and emergency medical insurance, especially during these Covid-times. If the trip requires a large down payment or is booked many months in advance, trip interruption and cancellation insurance can provide valuable protection from the unexpected,” says Aggarwal.
Check whether your travel insurance covers Covid-related delays, cancellations, quarantine, repatriation. If you buy a travel insurance after the issuance of travel advisory by the government, chances are that the insurance will not cover Covid-related travel hassles. Ask your insurance provider.
Vaccine approved by destination country: Each country has its own list of approved vaccine list (see below).
If you are stuck abroad, go to http://madad.gov.in
Or download the Madad app from Playstore, and report your grievance. Helpline: 1800-11-3090 ,011-40503090Emergency consular assistance:
Vaccines accepted by countries:
- Contact the local Indian embassy/Consulate concerned (through phone/email). The contact details of all Indian embassies/Consulates are available at: https://www.mea.gov.in/indian-missions-abroad-new.htm
- If you are unable to reach the local Indian embassy/Consulate for any reason, the Consular Section of the CPV Division of the Ministry of External Affairs could be contacted: http://www.mea.gov.in/divisions.htm and http://www.mea.gov.in/cpv.html
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has given a nod to vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Inc., AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Recently, it also approved two Chinese vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm.
- Currently, only nine countries in the European Union (EU) and Schengen area accept all vaccines authorised by the WHO. These are Finland, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Sweden, Iceland and Switzerland.
- 15 countries in the EU now recognise Covishield (both doses) as providing immunity for travel. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
- The rest of the EU members, as well as two other non-EU Schengen Area countries – Norway and Lichtenstein – refuse to recognise the Covishield vaccine until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorises it for use in the EU.
- Canada has recognised Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Covishield and Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccines. Those who have taken the Bharat Biotech vaccine will have to undergo mandatory quarantine upon entering Canada.
Know the country’s Covid-related travel guidelines
Nepal: Avoid travel to Nepal for the purposes of onward journeys to third countries. You can fly in if Nepal is your final destination.
France: Travellers from Indian will have to undergo a mandatory antigen test on their arrival apart from a pre-boarding RT-PCR test.
Qatar: Fully-vaccinated Indians can enter.
UK: India is on its travel Red list.
Bahrain: All passengers travelling from India are required to carry a negative RT-PCR test conducted up to 48 hours prior to the scheduled time of departure.
Germany: Provide a negative Covid test on arrival. Travellers must then in-principle enter a 10-day quarantine but can end it after five days with another negative test. A negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery is necessary for transit, including Schengen or non-Schengen transit.
Canada: Travellers will have to carry a negative Covid test result taken at the final point of departure to Canada.
For details, check: https://boi.gov.in/content/advisory-travel-and-visa-restrictions-related-covid-19-1
For travel updates by BLS International, visit www.blsinternational.com; call +91-11-43750006; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org