On Sunday night, India overtook Russia to become the country with third highest number of confirmed Covid19 cases behind only the US and Brazil. This could have an impact on India’s plans to restart international operations given that a number of jurisdictions have already indicated their initial unwillingness to allow flights from India into their borders.
What are India’s plans to resume international air travel?
While currently international air travel is restricted to repatriation missions being flown by Indian as well as foreign carriers, the Centre has indicated that it is in discussions with various countries to establish air bridges. These include the US, Canada and several European countries. The concept of air bridges is based on reciprocity with the said countries allowing Indian citizens to fly into their borders and India allowing their citizens to fly into its borders.
Could the rising number of cases also affect domestic travel?
The rise in number of cases in some parts of the country has already concerned some states like West Bengal, which sought ban on domestic flights from airports like Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Chennai. The Ministry of Civil Aviation, based on the request, has suspended flights from these airports to Kolkata for a period of two weeks between July 6-19. The worsening situation in some states like Telangana and Karnataka could make other states wary of having passengers fly in from these locations despite the quarantine restrictions. Sunday, Karnataka reported 1,925 fresh cases, while Telangana recorded 1,590 new cases. These states, which have been the biggest contributors to the latest spike in the overall Covid19 numbers for the country, now have more than 23,000 cases each. In Telangana, about 9,500 of these have come in the past week, while Karnataka has added over 10,000 during this period.
What can be a hurdle in the way of establishing the international air bridges?
Several countries that have already put in place these air bridges or travel bubbles have done so on the basis of their perception of the ability of the destination country to handle the Covid19 pandemic. For example, New Zealand, which was completely able to contain the disease was establishing a trans-Tasmanian air bubble with other countries that had managed the virus spread. The three Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia had also established an air bubble among themselves with virtually no restrictions on travel. However, the perception of India based on the rising number of cases, especially on account that it has become the country with third highest number of cases, could throw a spanner in the works for the government trying to establish air bridges.
How is India perceived by countries that are beginning to relax travel restrictions?
As some jurisdictions are opening up their borders for travel, they have left out some major countries including India, the US, Brazil, where the Covid19 spread is still on a rise. A group of 27 European Union countries agreed on an initial “safe list” of 14 countries last week, and travellers from countries in the safe list will be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes. This list is set to be reviewed every two weeks. Additionally, the UK government has also established travel corridors with 59 jurisdictions, from where passengers will be allowed to enter the UK July 10 onwards without having to self-isolate them, unless they travelled to a country not mentioned in the list in the preceding 14 days of their arrival. The UK’s safe list also does not include India.
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