Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: India to resume some train services from May 12. COVID-19 restrictions continue through at least May 17. Some measures vary by location.

This alert affects India

This alert began 11 May 2020 20:19 GMT and is scheduled to expire 18 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and transport disruptions; increased security; possible clashes

Indian authorities are allowing some train services to resume starting May 12 amid the continuation of nationwide measures to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Rail services will operate from New Delhi Railway Station to 15 destinations, including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Howrah, and Chennai. Tickets are only available on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation website, as booking counters at railway stations remain closed. Passengers will be required to wear facemasks and will be subject to health screenings at departure. Authorities may resume other rail services in the coming days.

Nevertheless, other nationwide movement, gathering, and business restrictions will remain in place through at least May 17. Domestic and international commercial flights will remain banned. Metro, bus, and interstate passenger road transport will also remain suspended. Exceptions are only available for special services to transport stranded workers to their home states, with such persons being required to quarantine for at least 14 days at home or in a state facility upon 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 remain in place nationwide. Movement control orders are in place 1900-0700 daily, 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, or undertaking permitted interdistrict or interstate travel, must register on the national Aarogya Setu mobile application for contact tracing purposes.

Authorities have introduced a multi-tiered health threat rating system nationwide to rank each district based on its COVID-19 activity. While nationwide restrictions will apply to all districts, the new system will almost certainly result in localized variations in specific measures and directives. The definitions of the different tiers are:

  • Containment Zones: There is no relaxation of restrictions in 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. Residents must stay indoors except for emergency purposes. Business operations, private and public transport, and entry or exit are banned. Officials typically deliver essential supplies to homes; door-to-door health screening is likely.


  • Red Districts: Few restrictions are relaxed due to a high proportion of COVID-19 cases. Public transport continues to be suspended, while the capacity limit for private vehicles is one person for two-wheeled vehicles and three people for four-wheeled vehicles. Autorickshaws and taxis are prohibited. 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 carry-out, and delivery services, as well as liquor shops, are also open, though grooming services remain banned. Private and public offices can resume functioning with one-third of staff capacity. 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: These areas have had no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days, which see further relaxation of restrictions as compared to red districts. Grooming services, as well as autorickshaw and taxi services, are available. Limited inter-district movement, such as bus services with lowered capacity, may be allowed with special permission.


  • Green Districts: These are areas with zero cases or no new COVID-19 cases for 21 days where most restrictions are eased, with inter- and intradistrict 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.

Officials have been allowing some foreign citizens, residents, and long-term visa holders stranded in India to buy seats on Air India (AI) repatriation flights leaving India as of May 7. The flights depart India primarily to bring home Indian nationals who had been stranded abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The flights in question serve several countries, including the UK, US, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia. 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.

Travel Restrictions
With some exceptions for repatriation of Indian nationals and foreign nationals stranded in India, most international travel remains effectively banned. 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 for all international travelers, with the exception of holders of diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, and project visas. 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 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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