Updated: March 12, 2020 12:47:21 am
India on Wednesday suspended most visas till April 15, citing the spread of the novel coronavirus to “more than 100 countries” worldwide. All visas — except a few categories such as diplomatic and employment — stand cancelled from 1200 GMT on March 13. Air India has cancelled all flights to Italy and Korea till March 28 and March 25 respectively. The government also “strongly advised” Indians to avoid all non-essential travel abroad.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International organisations, employment and project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020. This will come into effect from 1200GMT on 13th March 2020 at the port of departure,” the statement said.
The decision was taken at a meeting of a group of ministers under the chairmanship of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. India has so far reported 60 confirmed cases of the virus.
Visa-free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card-holders is also kept in abeyance till April 15.
Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for “compelling reasons” may contact the nearest Indian Mission, the release said, adding that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.
All regular Visas (including e Visas) granted to nationals of France, Germany and Spain on or before March 11, and where these foreigners have not yet entered India, stand suspended. Visas of all foreign nationals who have travel history to these countries on or after February 2 and who have not yet entered India also stand suspended.
“People traveling to these countries or people who have travelled abroad might come in contact with people affected with COVID-19 during their stay or even while in transit at the airports. Within these countries, few countries have reported very large number of cases and deaths putting passengers from these countries particularly at higher risk of infection,” the statement read.
Incoming international passengers from affected countries have been asked to “self-monitor their health and follow required dos and dont’s as detailed by the government.”
International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities.
These will be notified separately by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the release said. Provision for testing primarily for students/compassionate cases in Italy will be made and sample collections will be organised accordingly.
With over 4,000 deaths due to the infection worldwide, the World Health Organization Wednesday declared COVID 19 a pandemic. The WHO also said that while the declaration “doesn’t change what countries should do” to aggressively contain the virus, the UN health agency is “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity.”
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