Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: South Asian states maintain travel restrictions to and from countries affected by COVID-19 as of Sept. 1. Health screenings ongoing.

Alert Begins 01 Sep 2020 07:17 AM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): South Asia (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business, transport, and travel disruptions

South Asian states are maintaining travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Some nations in South Asia are advising citizens to avoid nonessential international travel. 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 Sept. 1, the following restrictions were in place, modified, or planned:


  • Afghanistan: International flights resumed in Afghanistan 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. Pakistani authorities are allowing limited cargo movement 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, violence has occurred - especially at the Chaman border with Pakistan - due to occasional civilian protests over entry and transporters' demonstrations against processing delays and rule changes. Enhanced health screenings are underway at all entry points - mainly land border crossings with Iran. Authorities briefly enforced a travel ban and land border closures between Afghanistan and Iran Feb. 25-26; Pakistan has also enforced border closures at short notice in the past month. Such restrictions could recur intermittently in the coming weeks if in-country cases increase or significant violence occurs at checkpoints.


  • 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 reopen more flight routes in the coming weeks gradually. Outgoing passengers must obtain medical certification from a government-approved facility confirming a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, only if mandated by their air carrier or destination country. Limited domestic passenger flights have resumed since June 1, though cancellations are likely due to low demand. Passenger transit through land borders with India and Myanmar remains suspended due to restrictions by neighboring countries. 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. 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: Most international flights remain banned through at least Sept. 30. Authorities are allowing limited commercial flights with France, Germany, Qatar, Maldives, UAE, UK, and the US as of Sept. 1; similar arrangements are likely with other countries in the coming days, though changes are possible at short notice. However, entry is 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 journalistic, diplomatic, official, or UN/international organization visas and their family members. Authorities may introduce similar measures with other countries in the coming weeks. Permitted travelers may also avail charter services. Authorities have suspended visa issuance and canceled previously issued visas of all other international travelers. Travelers already in the country may receive visa extensions upon online application. Effective Aug. 8, all entrants to the country must undergo a paid institutional quarantine of seven days, followed by a week-long home quarantine. Exemptions are possible for some categories of asymptomatic passengers, including those with a negative PCR test for COVID-19 obtained within 96 hours before entry, requiring special care such as elderly or pregnant women, and parents accompanied by children aged below ten years. Arriving passengers must register online within 72 hours before travel; different states may impose variable quarantine and testing requirements. Domestic flights resumed May 25. Indian authorities stopped passenger traffic at all land, river, and sea ports since March 18. The suspension of international cruises, passenger buses, and train services continues.


  • Maldives: Authorities 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 PCR test results nor undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing or quarantine in the Maldives. International and domestic flights, as well as maritime transport, are operational. Officials may modify restrictions at short notice, depending on local cases.


  • Nepal: Nepali authorities have allowed the resumption of international flights effective Sept. 1; however, only operations to select destinations have restarted due to travel restrictions and daily limits for returning citizens. Authorities have suspended on-arrival and electronic visa issuance for all others except those officially affiliated to international developmental organizations and diplomatic missions. Those wishing to travel to Nepal must contact their local Nepali diplomatic mission for visa approval; officials may require medical certification and employment letters. Approved travelers to Nepal must submit negative results of a COVID-19 PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to travel date. Entrants must also furnish a hard copy of their online registration on the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre website upon arrival, and undergo a 14-day home quarantine. Foreigners already in Nepal may obtain paid visa extensions through Dec. 15. Domestic flights remain suspended through Sept. 16. Nepali citizens returning via land routes may only use ten land crossings through at least Sept. 16, namely Birgunj of Parsa District, Belahiya in Rupandehi District, Gaddachauki in Kanchanpur District, Gaur in Rautahat district, Gauriphanta in Kailai District, Jamunaha in Banke District, Kakarbhitta in Jhapa District, Krishnanagar in Kapilvastu District, Madar in Siraha District, and Rani in Morang District. Officials are allowing cargo transit at land borders, mainly with China and India. Cargo handlers must follow health precautions, including wearing protective gear and undergoing frequent medical screenings.


  • Pakistan: Authorities have permitted the resumption of domestic and international passenger flight operations at all international airports. However, flights remain severely restricted in number and routes due to low demand and travel restrictions affecting Pakistani citizens and air carriers. Cargo, charter, and repatriation flights are also operational. Any incoming travelers to the country, including Pakistani nationals, must self-isolate for two weeks if asymptomatic. Symptomatic passengers are mandated to undergo testing and a 14-day quarantine at home, paid accommodation, or in a medical facility, based on health assessments. Authorities are permitting the limited exchange of citizens and cargo with Afghanistan; occasional clashes reported at the Chaman border will probably continue, prompting intermittent border closures. 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 have 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.

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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