The Indian government has moved to drastically limit the number of people it allows to enter the country, suspending visas for visitors from all other countries for at least a month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure, one of the most far-reaching responses by any government to the Covid-19 outbreak yet, effectively bans all tourism to India until at least 15 April. It will be enforced from Friday onwards.
The announcement came as India’s number of coronavirus cases rose to 72 on Thursday, and amid mounting concerns that the country’s beleaguered health system and densely populated cities would make it extremely difficult to contain a fully fledged outbreak.
While announcing the travel ban, the health ministry said that “all Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad”, warning they could be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon their return. “Indian nationals presently abroad are advised to avoid non-essential travel,” the notice added.
And in the southern state of Karnataka, officials invoked 123-year-old legislation to announce that any person who refuses hospital treatment or violates their quarantine will be prosecuted.
The health ministry said the travel ban came with some exceptions - those with diplomatic and long-term employment visas for India will still be allowed into the country, and foreigners already inside the country will mostly be unaffected.
But tourists who have already had visas issued for upcoming travel to India should consider them suspended, and even foreigners of Indian origin - who would normally enjoy visa-free travel under the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) scheme - will also be barred entry.
Even those with certain categories of long-term, multiple-entry visa will be barred from entering the country, or have their visas suspended if they leave from Friday onwards. A foreign ministry source confirmed this would include foreign journalists based in India.
Travellers with a “compelling reason” to come to India should contact their nearest Indian mission, the advisory said. However, this will be not applicable to Nepali citizens.
Credit: The Independence