Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities to allow some foreigners to leave India on repatriation flights from May 7. Some measures continue to vary by location.

This alert affects India

This alert began 06 May 2020 11:45 GMT and is scheduled to expire 18 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Curfew orders, travel bans, business and transport disruptions, quarantine measures; possible clashes

Summary
Officials will allow some foreign citizens, residents, and long-term visa holders stranded in India to buy seats on Air India (AI) repatriation flights leaving India from May 7. The flights are intended to bring home Indian nationals who had been stranded abroad amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Air India flights will travel to several countries, including the UK, US, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, to pick up the Indian nationals and deliver the stranded foreigners. Foreigners looking to board repatriation flights need to apply to the Ministry of Civil Aviation or a similar agency that will determine whether the destination country will allow incoming passengers.

Indian authorities extended nationwide movement, gathering, and business restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through May 17. Under the measures, domestic and international commercial flights are to remain banned. Passenger rail, metro, bus, and inter-state road transport will also remain suspended, with exceptions for special services to transport stranded workers to their home states. Passengers transported to their home states are required to undergo quarantine for at least 14 days at home or in a state facility after arrival. Transport restrictions do not apply to cargo shipments. The ban on all public gatherings and the closure of educational institutions, tourist sites, places of worship, entertainment sites, and public spaces will remain in place nationwide. Movement control orders are in place daily 1900-0700, except for essential and emergency needs; high-risk groups such as essential workers, as well as those commencing daily transit to work, living in containment zones, and undertaking permitted interdistrict or interstate travel, are required to register on the national AarogyaSetu mobile application for contact tracing purposes.

Authorities have introduced a color-coded health threat rating scheme to districts throughout the country effective May 4, assigning Green, Orange, or Red assessments to each district based on COVID-19 activity. Variations in the scope and timing of relaxations are certain across states. While nationwide restrictions will apply to all districts, the following measures will apply to each category:

  • Containment Zones: No relaxation of restrictions in areas within 1 km (0.6 miles) of a reported COVID-19 cluster with four or more cases; local administration may extend the zone beyond 1 km based on risk factors. Residents are to stay indoors except for emergency purposes. Business operations, private and public transport, as well as entry or exit, is banned. Essential supplies are typically delivered to homes; door-to-door health screening is likely.

 

  • Red Districts: Few restrictions, mainly business-related, will ease in districts with a high proportion of COVID-19 cases at the national or state level. In addition to essential and emergency services, industrial and business operations, including e-commerce of essential goods, are allowed, as long as social distancing measures are in place. Standalone retail shops, food takeaway, and delivery services, as well as liquor shops, are also open, though grooming services remain banned. Public transport continues to be suspended, while the load limit for private vehicles is one person for two-wheeled vehicles and three people for four-wheeled vehicles. Autorickshaws and taxis are prohibited. Private and public offices can resume functioning with one-third of staff capacity. As of May 4, most major cities across India fall under the red designation and are unlikely to see significant relaxation in restrictions in the short term; significantly affected regions include Delhi as well as the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

 

  • Orange Districts: Areas with no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days will see further relaxation of restrictions as compared to red districts. Grooming services, as well as autorickshaw and taxi services, will be available. Limited inter-district movement, such as bus services with lowered capacity, may be allowed upon special permission.

 

  • Green Districts: Areas with zero cases or no new COVID-19 cases for 21 days will see an easing of most restrictions, with inter- and intra-district public buses functioning at half capacity.


State administration and police will continue to enforce and facilitate control measures. Emergency and utility services remain operational nationwide. Although banks and businesses selling essential goods such as fuel, food, and medicines remain open, officials will almost certainly regulate price, supply, and opening hours. Panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas, especially due to the increased demand related to Ramadan observance through May 24. 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.

Travel Restrictions
With some exceptions for repatriation of Indian nationals and foreign nationals stranded in India, most international travel remains effectively banned as of May 6. All domestic and international commercial passenger flights remain suspended until at least May 17. Authorities are advising Indian nationals to delay all nonessential international travel. Indian officials are maintaining a ban on travelers from Afghanistan, the EU, the European Free Trade Association, Malaysia, Philippines, Turkey, and the UK; authorities have barred airlines from boarding India-bound passengers from the aforementioned countries. All incoming travelers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited mainland China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Spain, on or after Feb. 15, are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a medical facility; all other travelers are advised to self-isolate for two weeks. Travelers that have visited Italy and South Korea also need to provide a certificate of having tested negative for COVID-19 from an authorized facility. Authorities have suspended visa issuance and canceled previously issued visas - except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, and project visas - of all international travelers. Foreign nationals already in the country will receive a visa extension upon online application.

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 government correspond with similar 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.

Advice
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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