Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: India to allow limited international commercial flights through at least Aug. 1. Domestic restrictions expanding with regional variations.

  • Alert Begins: 17 Jul 2020 09:47 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and transport disruptions, increased security; possible clashes

India has announced a limited operation of international commercial flights with France and the US through at least Aug. 1. However, the entry will be limited to currently permitted categories of travelers: Indian citizens, Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders and their relatives, business travelers other than those with B-3 sporting visas, holders of diplomatic, official, or UN/international organization visas and their family members. Similar measures with Germany and the UK are possible in the coming days; authorities may rescind, delay, or modify such arrangements at short notice. Nationwide domestic measures to control the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are in place through July 31, with several regions reimposing business, transport, and movement controls in light of increasing cases.

There is no relaxation in containment zones, which are areas within 1 km (0.6 miles) of a reported COVID-19 cluster with four or more cases; local administrations may extend the zone beyond 1 km based on risk factors. State administration and police will continue to enforce and facilitate control measures. Residents must stay indoors except for emergency purposes. Officials typically deliver essential supplies to homes; door-to-door health screening is likely. Business operations, private and public transport, and entry or exit are banned. Emergency and utility services will remain operational. While banks and businesses selling essential goods, such as fuel, food, and medicines, will also function, officials will almost certainly regulate price, supply, and opening hours. Panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas. Sporadic clashes are possible if groups attempt to enforce business closures or defy official orders. Police may forcibly disperse unruly crowds. Violators may face legal action. Significant areas of major cities, such as Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, and Pune are containment zones as of July 17 and are likely to see slow normalization. States such as Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland have the strictest restrictions. The measures include a limit on nonessential activities, curtailment of operating hours of establishments and some essential services, suspension of long-distance public transport services, as well as prohibition on interdistrict travel except for emergencies, until further notice. Other states are likely to implement modified measures depending on the number of cases locally.

Other nationwide measures continue. Authorities require people to wear face masks in public, practice social distancing measures, and follow the nightly 2200-0500 curfew. The ongoing closure of educational institutions and entertainment venues and the ban on large gatherings continue while businesses are required to utilize telecommuting to the extent possible. High-risk groups, such as essential workers, and those who transit daily to work, living in containment zones, or undertaking permitted interdistrict or interstate travel, must register on the national Aarogya Setu mobile application as well as state-specific online portals for contact tracing purposes.

Nationwide guidelines have allowed states to reopen public and religious sites and industrial, retail, and business facilities with adequate health measures in areas outside containment zones since June 8. However, most states continue to restrict the reopening of large retail centers, such as shopping malls, sports facilities, dine-in restaurants, and grooming services. Nonessential businesses are mostly required to limit workforce and operating hours to the extent possible. All forms of private and public transport, except Metro trains, are permitted to resume outside containment zones, albeit with social distancing. Although interdistrict and interstate travel is permitted, local authorities are limiting such travel to those with electronic passes approved for essential purposes. Interstate movement restrictions are most significant in northeastern states with special entry requirements due to tribal populations, as well as in the National Capital Region due to states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh State closing land borders with Delhi except for essential services. Similar variations are likely between regions through July, depending on the local caseload. Limited domestic flights have resumed, though availability is affected by low demand.

Interstate and international travelers must typically undergo quarantine for at least 14 days; symptomatic passengers are likely to do so at designated facilities, while asymptomatic persons may complete it at home or paid accommodation. Those spending 48 hours or less in Karnataka State, or 72 hours or less in Punjab State, are exempt from quarantine; such travelers must apply for a travel pass beforehand. Testing is mandatory upon entry into Sikkim State, as well as Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory. State authorities are likely to modify guidelines at short notice according to the local situation.

Travel Restrictions
Most international passenger travel remains effectively banned through at least July 31, with some exceptions for the repatriation of Indian citizens and foreign nationals stranded in India, business travelers other than those with B-3 sporting visas, and OCI cardholders and their relatives. Family members of those in India with diplomatic, official, or UN/international organization visas are also permitted to enter India. Mentioned travelers must approach Indian consulates for new visas, regardless of previous visa status; they may enter the country via nonscheduled flights, or limited scheduled flights from France and the US due to an ongoing ban on most commercial international passenger flights through July 31. Arriving passengers are required to undergo self-paid quarantine for 14 days; asymptomatic travelers will quarantine at a designated facility for seven days and at home for the next seven days, while symptomatic travelers will quarantine at a medical facility. Passengers seeking exemptions and waivers must discuss all intended destinations and transit states with authorities before arrival. Officials also require passengers to download the Aarogya Setu mobile application for contact tracing purposes. Authorities are advising Indian citizens to delay all nonessential international travel. Officials have suspended visa issuance and canceled previously issued visas for all international travelers, except for holders of most business, diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, and project visas. Foreign nationals already in the country can apply online to avail a free visa extension valid for 30 days after resumption of regular international commercial flights.

Officials are allowing some foreign citizens, residents, and long-term visa holders stranded in India to buy seats on Air India (AI) repatriation flights leaving India through July. The flights operate primarily to bring home Indian nationals who have been stranded abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These flights serve airports in several countries, including the UK, the US, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and multiple Central Asian nations. Foreigners looking to board repatriation flights need to confirm their entry eligibility with the embassy of the intended destination country and book their tickets through the websites of AI or its subsidiary, Air India Express (IX).

Additional measures could be introduced in the coming days, especially if the number of in-country cases increases.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Indian government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions; minimize outdoor activity to the extent possible. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm business appointments, deliveries, work, and travel arrangements. Do not check out of accommodation without confirming onward travel. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items, plan for queues, and delays at available shopping centers. Carry proper identification documents, heed all security advisories.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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