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Explained: Review of easing international flights amid emergence of new Covid variant

🔴 On Saturday, the Prime Minister chaired a two-hour meeting with senior government officials to review the public health preparedness and vaccination-related situation for Covid-19, where he was briefed about the omicron variant.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: November 30, 2021 11:45:51 am
Explained: Review of easing international flights amid emergence of new Covid variantDuring the meeting, Modi asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence. (Express File/Amit Mehra)

Just a day after the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced the resumption of international scheduled commercial flights effective December 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday directed senior government officials to “review” plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emergence of new evidence regarding the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

What had the Civil Aviation Ministry announced?

On Friday, the ministry announced that international scheduled commercial flights will resume from December 15 after a 21-month ban.

According to the ministry, the resumption was to happen in a calibrated manner with a staggered reopening for countries considered ‘at-risk’. These include Europe, including the UK, in addition to South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. Among these countries, if India has an air bubble arrangement, flights will be resumed at a 75 per cent capacity as decided in bilateral agreements, and for those without an air bubble, at 50 per cent capacity. For all the remaining countries that are not a part of the ‘at-risk’ category, 100 per cent of the flights were allowed to resume.

Why is the decision being reviewed?

On Saturday, the Prime Minister chaired a two-hour meeting with senior government officials to review the public health preparedness and vaccination-related situation for Covid-19, where he was briefed about the omicron variant. The mutation has been declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a ‘variant of concern’.

During the meeting, Modi asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence. In addition to the relaxations announced Friday, India also eased visa restrictions — having resumed granting of tourist visas for those flying on chartered flights from October 15 and for other flights from November 15.

Is international travel being restricted by other nations?

Yes, a number of countries are restricting travel from south African countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, etc, in addition to curtailing travel from jurisdictions where the new variant has been detected.

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