April 23, 2021 3:42:08 am
At least nine jurisdictions — the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, France, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Oman — have imposed fresh restrictions on travel to and from India on account of the surge in Covid-19 cases.
Experts watching the sector closely said India currently poses the “biggest risk” of exporting new variants of the coronavirus to countries around the world, and that they expected more borders to be closed for travel from India.
As of Thursday morning, India had 22,91,428 active cases of coronavirus infection, an increase of 1,33,890 cases over the previous day, according to government figures.
The UAE on Thursday became the latest country to close its borders for travellers from India, after Singapore imposed a travel ban and Australia announced it will reduce the number of its citizens who would be able to return from India and other red-zone countries.
According to airline sources, UAE authorities on Thursday banned all flights from India for a period of 10 days from Sunday. The suspension is subject to a review after 10 days.
In a travel advisory, Dubai-based airline Emirates said: “Effective 24 April 2021 Saturday, 2359 local time Dubai and for the next 10 days, Emirates flights from India to the UAE will be suspended. Furthermore, passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE.”
Other airlines based in the UAE, such as Etihad, FlyDubai, and Air Arabia, are also learnt to have cancelled their flights from India.
Indian carrier Air India Express said: “General Authority of Civil Aviation UAE has suspended all inbound passenger movement to the UAE from India (excluding UAE nationals)… Passengers booked to fly with us during this period will be able to reschedule their tickets once the restrictions are lifted.”
Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced that with effect from 11.59 pm local time on Friday, all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with travel history, including transit, to India in the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter Singapore, or to transit through the country.
“There is no evidence that the recent cases at the Westlite Woodlands Dormitory are linked to the new strain from India. But many of the arrivals from India are workers in the Construction, Marine and Process (CMP) sectors. Even with our control measures, there is still a risk that a leak may happen, and cause another wave of infection in the dormitories. It is also a concern that recovered workers (i.e. those who had been infected earlier) are susceptible to being re-infected. We will therefore further tighten our border measures with India,” the Singapore Ministry of Health said in a statement.
Singapore had on Tuesday announced mandatory seven-day home quarantine for travellers arriving from India, in addition to the 14-day compulsory institutional quarantine upon arrival, effective Thursday. The new restrictions supersede these older ones.
Australia too, has tightened restrictions on the arrival of its citizens from India. “We’re in the middle of a global pandemic that is raging. And Australia has been successful throughout this pandemic…to have very effective border arrangements,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, Reuters reported. “There will continue to be the opportunity for those to return from places like India but in very controlled circumstances.”
Australia allows only 5,800 citizens or permanent residents to enter its territory each week.
Earlier this week, countries including Oman and France imposed additional restrictions on travel from India. While Oman banned indefinitely the entry of travellers who are not Omani citizens or healthcare workers, from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh effective Saturday, France put India on the list of countries, travellers from where need to undergo mandatory 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
The UK has put India on its “red-list” of countries, effectively banning non-citizens from entering its borders, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an advisory asking people, even those who are fully vaccinated, to not travel to India.
“India right now represents the biggest risk of import of old and new variants of Covid, both because of how cases have shot up, and how poor the testing mechanism is… I expect more and more borders will be closed,” a former executive at an Indian airline said, asking not to be named.
A senior Mumbai-based official of a West Asian airline, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the growing number of cases were “rattling” governments abroad.
“The situation is rattling for any government outside and they would want to prevent import of more cases after all the efforts put in to control the spread. Of course, some of the biggest countries being worried sends out a negative signal throughout the international community but there’s nothing India can do except bring down the number of Covid-19 cases,” this official said.
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