Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: India to modify domestic measures Aug. 1; regional variations likely. Limited international commercial flights operational.

  • Alert Begins: 30 Jul 2020 04:06 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Aug 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

Summary
India has announced modified guidelines related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) effective Aug. 1-31. Authorities will lift the ongoing nightly curfew 2200-0500 from Aug. 1, while permitting the opening of some sports facilities. However, regional variations are almost certain to continue, with several states extending or 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; workplaces and industries may operate with special permissions according to local rules. 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 Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, and Pune are containment zones and are likely to see slow normalization.

Other nationwide measures continue. Authorities require people to wear face masks in public and practice social distancing measures. Officials are also advising vulnerable groups who are aged below 10 years or above 65 years, as well as pregnant women and those with existing health conditions to avoid nonessential outdoor activity. 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.

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 August, 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 planning a short stay below 72 hours may be exempt from quarantine in some states such as Karnataka and Punjab; such travelers must apply for a travel pass beforehand. Testing is mandatory upon entry into multiple regions like 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. Most domestic and international travel requires registration on the national Aarogya Setu mobile application as well as state-specific online portals for contact tracing purposes.

Travel Restrictions

Authorities are advising Indian citizens to delay all nonessential international travel. Most international passenger travel remains effectively banned until further notice, 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 permitted under bilateral agreements through Aug. 31 due to an ongoing ban on most commercial international passenger flights. Such arrangements are planned or operational between India and countries like the US, France, Germany, UK, and UAE; modifications at short notice are possible. Arriving passengers must 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. 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 of a free visa extension valid for 30 days after the 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.

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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