As of Oct. 22, India has adjusted coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-related entry requirements. It will allow persons of all nationalities to enter the country through air or seaports on any visa type other than tourism. Indian consulates will issue fresh non-tourist visas while existing non-tourist visas will also be considered valid. However, inbound international passenger flights remain limited to charter, repatriation, and approved flights under bilateral agreements.
Officials are relaxing domestic COVID-19 measures in areas outside containment zones from 0001 Oct. 15. Indoor gatherings may comprise up to 200 people, while outdoor gatherings may include any number with adherence to social distancing measures. Business exhibitions, cinema halls, theaters, parks, and other entertainment venues may open with 50 percent capacity. Most international flights remain suspended, except for limited repatriation and "air bubble" travel. From Oct. 1, all international arrivals may avail of on-arrival testing in entry airports with such facilities. Passengers must pre-book a test through the Air Suvidha portal and wait at the entry airport for seven hours after testing before boarding a connecting domestic flight or exiting the airport. Asymptomatic travelers with a negative test result are exempt from institutional quarantine but are subject to state-specific home quarantine rules.
Other nationwide measures continue until further notice. People must wear facemasks in public and practice social distancing. Officials are also advising vulnerable groups who are aged below 10 years or above 65 years and pregnant women and those with existing health conditions to avoid nonessential outdoor activity. The ongoing closure of educational institutions and entertainment venues and a ban on large gatherings continue while businesses are required to utilize telecommuting to the extent possible. Regional variations are almost certain to continue, with some states extending or reimposing business, transport, and movement controls in light of increasing cases.
Consecutive nationwide relaxations have allowed states to reopen public, sports, and religious sites, as well as industrial, retail, and business facilities with adequate health measures, outside containment zones since June 8. However, most states continue to restrict the reopening of large retail centers like 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 are permitted to resume outside containment zones, albeit with social distancing. Although interdistrict and interstate travel is permitted, some local authorities limit 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. Similar variations are likely between regions throughout October, depending on the local caseload. Limited domestic flights and metro train services have resumed, though availability is affected by low demand.
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 like 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. Multiple areas of major cities, such as Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, and Pune, are containment zones and are likely to see slow normalization.
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 of fewer than seven days are typically exempt from quarantine in most states; such travelers may need to 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 and state-specific online portals for contact tracing purposes.
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, OCI cardholders, and their relatives, as well as Tibetan migrants with return visas. 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 due to an ongoing ban on most commercial international passenger flights. Such arrangements are operational between India and countries like Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Qatar, Maldives, Nigeria, UAE, UK, Ukraine, and the US as of Oct. 22; flights to and from Bangladesh will operate from Oct. 28. Similar arrangements with other countries, as well as modifications at short notice, are possible. 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 swab 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 10 years. All arriving passengers must register online via the Air Suvidha portal within 72 hours before departure. Different states may impose variable quarantine and testing requirements; those seeking exemptions and waivers must do so from authorities in all intended destinations and transit states before arrival. Officials have restarted visa issuance for all international travelers, except for tourist 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 allow some foreign citizens, residents, and long-term visa holders stranded in India to buy seats on flights leaving India. 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 air carriers' websites.
Additional modifications to 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.