Just a day after the Ministry of Civil Aviation announced the resumption of international scheduled commercial flights effective December 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed senior government officials to “review” plans for easing 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?
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% capacity as decided in bilateral agreements, and for those without an air bubble, at 50% capacity. For all the remaining countries that are not a part of the ‘at-risk’ category, 100% of the flights were allowed to resume.
Why is the decision being reviewed?
Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a two-hour long meeting with senior government officials to review the public health preparedness & vaccination related situation for Covid-19, where he was briefed about the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The mutation has been declared by the World Health Organization 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 countries?
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. The New York Times reported citing US government officials that starting Monday, the administration will prohibit travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi from coming to the United States. Similarly, Canada, the UK and several EU countries have also introduced restrictions for travellers from South Africa and its neighbouring countries.
Are other measures being taken to restrict travel from these countries in India?
Some states and local jurisdictions have already started imposing travel restrictions for passengers coming from these countries. Mumbai Mayor has announced that all passengers arriving from South Africa to the Mumbai airport will be compulsorily quarantined and samples will be sent for genome sequencing. Gujarat government, on the other hand, has made it mandatory for passengers coming in from Europe, the UK, Brazil, South Africa, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong to undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival at any airport in the state.
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