Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Maldives reopened borders July 15. Other South Asian states maintaining travel restrictions, screenings related to COVID-19.

  • Alert Begins: 15 Jul 2020 05:43 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): South Asia (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business, transport, and travel disruptions

Summary
Maldives has resumed international travel from July 15. Other nations in South Asia are advising citizens to avoid nonessential international travel due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Countries are also urging all incoming travelers, regardless of nationality, to self-isolate for two weeks or undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a medical facility based on medical screening outcomes. Other measures include a ban on public gatherings, enhanced health screenings for incoming passengers, travel restrictions, and flight suspensions. These measures have expanded as in-country cases increase across the region.

As of July 15, the following restrictions were in place, modified, or planned:

 

  • Afghanistan: International flights have resumed in Afghanistan as of July 1, though availability is affected by low demand and travel restrictions on Afghan citizens and carriers; domestic flights are also operational. The opening of land borders with Iran and Pakistan is largely limited to trade - mainly import of essential goods - and exchange of stranded citizens. Enhanced health screenings are underway at all entry points - mainly land border crossings with Iran. As of July 15, Pakistani authorities are allowing cargo import and export through land ports on the Afghan-Pakistani border at Chaman, Ghulam Khan, and Torkham, as well as transit trade through the Wagah border at the Indo-Pakistani border. However, brief and occasional protests by transporters are possible at checkpoints in case of processing delays or rule changes. Authorities briefly enforced a travel ban and land border closures between Afghanistan and Iran Feb. 25-26; such restrictions could recur intermittently in the coming weeks if in-country cases increase.

 

  • Bhutan: Ongoing restrictions on entry and re-entry for all foreigners with any visa or work and immigration permits will continue until further notice. Officials will also deny entry to those holding diplomatic, official, and international organization passports; only Bhutanese citizens and residents may enter. All returnees will undergo a 21-day quarantine. Foreigners may leave the country. The Bhutanese government has closed all international borders, including the border with India, for passenger transit; officials have also severely restricted cargo transport. Authorities have increased security at informal border crossings. Officials had earlier mandated thermal scanning at all entry points; although passenger traffic at land crossings with India is limited, crossborder trade continues. Bhutanese air carriers such as Druk Air (KB) and Bhutan Airlines (B3) are operating limited international and domestic flights to repatriate stranded Bhutanese citizens.

 

  • Bangladesh: Authorities resumed some international flights June 16, and intend to gradually reopen more flight routes in the coming weeks. Limited domestic passenger flights have resumed since June 1, though cancellations are likely due to low demand. Land borders with India and Myanmar are closed to travelers. Temporary shipping disruptions and occasional protests are likely to continue at lndo-Bangladeshi land ports, mainly the Petrapole-Benapole land crossing, due to grievances related to cargo transit rules. On-arrival visa issuance remains suspended, and additional travel bans continue for those with travel history to the EU or Iran since March 1. Permitted foreign nationals, such as business travelers arriving in Bangladesh, must provide a medical certificate (with an English translation) no older than 72 hours on their arrival, indicating that they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Officials still require persons to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

 

  • India: A ban on international commercial flights will continue until further notice. Charter services for business travelers, family members of official or diplomatic visa holders, and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders and their relatives are allowed as of July 9, provided they obtain a fresh visa. Authorities have suspended visa issuance and canceled previously issued visas of all other international travelers - except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, and project visas. Travelers already in the country may receive visa extensions upon online application. Passengers arriving from abroad are subject to mandatory 14-day quarantines. Those planning on essential travel to India can contact Indian consulates for visa issuance after medical checks. Domestic flights resumed May 25. Indian authorities stopped passenger traffic at all air, land, river, and sea ports since March 18. Officials are also maintaining an earlier ban on travelers from Afghanistan, the EU, the European Free Trade Association, Malaysia, Philippines, Turkey, and the UK. The suspension of international cruises, passenger buses, and train services continues.

 

  • Maldives: Authorities have reopened borders July 15 for all foreigners with on-arrival visas and pre-booked accommodation at venues approved by the Ministry of Tourism; asymptomatic entrants neither need to produce negative COVID-19 test results nor undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing or quarantine in the Maldives. International and domestic flights, as well as maritime transport, has resumed as of July 15. Officials may modify restrictions at short notice, depending on local cases.

 

  • Nepal: Officials are extending a ban on all inbound and outbound international passenger flights, as well as domestic passenger flights, until further notice, except for some charter flights repatriating stranded citizens. Nepal has suspended on-arrival and electronic visa issuance for all foreign nationals and nonresident Nepalese until further notice. Those wishing to travel to Nepal must contact their local Nepali diplomatic mission for visa approval and submit results of a swab test conducted within seven days before the intended travel date that demonstrates that the individual is free of COVID-19. Additionally, Nepal is barring those with travel or transit history to Europe, Gulf Arab countries, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea from entering. Foreigners already in Nepal will receive a free visa extension until officials lift exit restrictions. Closure of all land border crossings for non-repatriation passenger traffic with India and China remain in place; authorities permit limited cargo transit.

 

  • Pakistan: Authorities are exempting Pakistani citizens from an ongoing ban on inbound international commercial passenger flights since June 20; however, only limited flights - mainly from the Middle East - will operate to serve stranded Pakistanis. Foreign nationals remain barred from entering Pakistan through commercial flights pending further notice. Limited outbound international services, repatriation flights organized by consulates, and cargo flights will continue. Some domestic passenger flights have resumed from airports serving Karachi (KHI), Lahore (LHE), Islamabad (ISB), Peshawar (PEW), Quetta (UET), and Sialkot (SKT) as of June 18; travelers must undergo health screening and practice social distancing. Officials are extending the validity of visas for foreign nationals in the country through Aug. 31. Authorities are permitting the exchange of citizens with Afghanistan; they have also lifted an export ban and time limit for cargo transit at land border posts with Afghanistan. Officials have also opened the Pishin and Rimdan border crossings with Iran, allowing limited transport of goods. The Attari-Wagah border with India remains closed amid the cancellation of bus and train services between India and Pakistan.

 

  • Sri Lanka: Authorities have suspended the issuance of all visa types - including electronic, landing, multiple entry, and residential - to foreigners, regardless of nationality, until further notice; previously issued visas for foreign nationals, including residential permits, stand temporarily suspended. Such travelers will not be allowed to enter Sri Lanka. The restrictions do not apply to holders of diplomatic, official, and service passports. Foreigners who are already in Sri Lanka may apply for visa extensions. Officials suspended all inbound international passenger flights until further notice; however, cargo transport, passenger transit, and international departures will continue at the Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). Officials had previously ordered all international services at the Jaffna International Airport (JAF) - Sri Lanka's only other functional international airport - to be halted. While domestic flights are unaffected, international passenger ships such as cruises and ferries are barred indefinitely; port operations for goods transport continue. Officials have indefinitely deferred plans to allow entry to foreigners from Aug. 1, due to new local COVID-19 cases.

 


Additional measures may lead to entry restrictions, immigration delays, and possible quarantine for travelers from countries with significant cases of COVID-19. Increased health screenings are likely to result in increased wait times at all ports of entry. Airlines serving and operating out of impacted countries may suspend or curtail both domestic and international passenger services due to precautionary measures, government restrictions, or low consumer demand.

Advice
Confirm all planned travel to the region. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings, especially if traveling from countries with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Confirm entry requirements, visa validity, and travel reservations before checking out of accommodation. Plan for shipping delays due to border closures. Follow all official instructions.

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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