Severity: Critical Alert

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

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Maldives

This alert began 19 May 2020 09:39 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): South Asia (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Entry restrictions, flight disruptions, longer immigration wait times, quarantine measures

Summary
Several nations in South Asia have advised citizens to avoid nonessential international travel due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Countries are also advising 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 May 19, the following restrictions were in place, modified, or planned:

  • Afghanistan: The opening of land borders with Iran and Pakistan is limited to trade - mainly of essential goods - and exchange of stranded citizens. Enhanced health screenings are underway at all entry points - mainly land border crossings with Iran. However, there are cargo transport backlogs at land checkpoints on the Afghan-Pakistani border due to authorities allowing fewer cargo trucks into Afghanistan. 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. Restrictions on international flights, imposed by Afghan authorities, remain in place as of May 19. Afghan carriers are mainly operating services from Dubai and Pakistan; however, flight availability remains limited by bans on Afghan flights by several countries. Officials have also limited domestic passenger flights as of May 19.
  • Bhutan: Ongoing restrictions on entry and re-entry for all foreigners with any form of visa, work permit, and immigration permit 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, and is severely restricting cargo transport. Authorities have increased security along informal border crossings. Officials had earlier mandated thermal scanning at all entry points; although passenger traffic at land crossings with India is limited, cross-border 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 have extended the ban on international flights, except for services to and from China, through at least May 30. Domestic passenger flights remain suspended. Land borders with India and Myanmar are closed to travelers. Cargo transport disruptions have been reported on the border between Bangladesh and India's West Bengal State, especially at the Petrapole-Benapole land crossing, where backlogs are occurring due to state-specific preventative measures. While on-arrival visa issuance remains suspended, additional travel bans continue for those with travel history to the EU or Iran since March 1. Foreign nationals arriving in Bangladesh are required to provide a medical certificate (with an English translation) no older than 72 hours on 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 all domestic and international commercial flights will continue until at least May 31. Authorities have suspended visa issuance and canceled previously issued visas of all international travelers - except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment, and project visas - of all international travelers. Travelers already in the country may receive visa extensions upon online application. Those planning on essential travel to India can contact Indian consulates for visa issuance after medical checks. Indian authorities have temporarily 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: Maldivian authorities are permitting special entry for some categories of international travelers, including diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, and business owners related to the resort sector. On-arrival visa facilities for all other foreigners remain suspended at all air and sea ports from 0001 March 27; visas will remain valid for travelers already in the country. Those planning on essential travel to the Maldives can contact the nearest Maldivian consulate for visa issuance after medical checks. Earlier, officials banned travelers from or transiting through Bangladesh, France's Ile-de-France and Grand Est; Germany's Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Baden-Wurttemberg; Iran; Italy; mainland China; Malaysia; Spain; the UK; and South Korea's North Gyeongsang and South Gyeongsang provinces. Authorities will quarantine Maldivian citizens arriving from the US at a designated facility for 14 days; those returning from other foreign countries will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Authorities have also suspended direct flights to and from China since Jan. 30 and barred cruise ships from Maldivian waters from Feb. 28.
  • Nepal: Officials are extending a ban on all inbound and outbound international passenger flights through at least May 31, 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 the results of a swab test conducted within seven days before the intended travel date that demonstrates that the individual is free of COVID-19. In addition, Nepal is barring entry to those with travel or transit history to Europe, Gulf Arab countries, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea. Foreigners already in Nepal will receive a free visa extension until officials lift exit restrictions. Closure of all land border crossings for passenger traffic with India and China remain in place; authorities permit cargo transit.
  • Pakistan: Authorities are extending the validity of visas for foreign nationals in the country through June 30, amid an ongoing ban on international commercial passenger flights until at least 2359 May 31; repatriation and cargo flights continue. Limited domestic passenger flights have resumed from airports serving Karachi (KHI), Lahore (LHE), Islamabad (ISB), Peshawar (PEW), and Quetta (UET) since May 16; travelers must undergo health screening and practice social distancing. Pakistani authorities are permitting the exchange of citizens along land border checkpoints with Afghanistan; the export of essential goods is allowed through the Spin Boldak and Torkham crossings Sunday-Thursday weekly. 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 have entered Sri Lanka on or before March 14 will receive visa extensions at least up to June 11. 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 - has also halted. While domestic flights are unaffected, international passenger ships such as cruises and ferries are barred indefinitely; port operations for goods transport continue.


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 international 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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