South Asian states enhance health screenings and some impose travel restrictions to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau, as of Feb. 3.

Severity: Informational Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

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

This alert began 03 Feb 2020 06:33 GMT and is scheduled to expire 17 Feb 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Enhanced health screenings, travel restrictions
  • Location(s): South Asia (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Longer immigration wait times; possible quarantine measures

Summary
Several countries in South Asia have implemented enhanced health screenings for passengers from China. The precaution follows an increase in reported cases of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, Hubei Province, and other areas in China, along with cases reported in several other Asian countries. Screening measures vary across the region.

As of Feb. 3, the following restrictions are enforced, modified, or planned:

  • Afghanistan: Enhanced health screenings are underway at all airports.
  • Bhutan: In addition to the thermal scanning of all air travelers, officials have mandated passengers from mainland China, especially Wuhan, to report to the health desk for possible isolation. Users of land crossings with India will undergo increased health checks.
  • Bangladesh: As of Feb. 3, authorities have suspended electronic visas for Chinese nationals until at least Mar. 3, and requested Chinese citizens to obtain visas from consulates after medical certification. Enhanced health screenings are underway at airports and land ports, especially Benapole land crossing between Bangladesh and India.
  • India: Authorities have suspended electronic visa issuance and online visa application for Chinese nationals and residents, and canceled currently approved electronic visas. Passengers with a travel history to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau since Jan. 15 may be quarantined for at least 14 days upon arrival in India. Authorities have also enhanced checks at sea and land ports, and introduced health screenings for passengers from Singapore and Thailand. At least two airlines have canceled flight operations to and from China.
  • Maldives: Officials have suspended direct flights to and from China since Jan. 30. As of Feb. 3, officials have temporarily banned all travelers, except Maldivian citizens, entering the country from mainland China as an origin or transit point. Authorities will quaratine Maldivian citizens arriving from these territories for at least 14 days.
  • Nepal: Effective Jan. 29, immigration authorities have closed the Rasuwagadhi land crossing with China. Himalaya Air has announced a suspension of its flight operations to and from China, starting Feb. 7. The flight disruptions will continue until at least Mar. 28. Health screenings are mandatory at all other land crossings, mainly with India.
  • Pakistan: As of Feb. 3, flights to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau have resumed after a brief suspension from Jan. 29.
  • Sri Lanka: Authorities have suspended on-arrival visas for all Chinese nationals, as of Feb. 3; electronic visas will continue to be issued.


Countries could expand their response in the coming days, particularly if the number of cases in-country increases. The measures are unlikely to impact most travelers but may lead to immigration delays and possible quarantine of at least 14 days, especially for passengers from China. Increased health screenings are likely to result in increased wait times at international airports and some land border crossings.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Allow additional time for immigration and health screenings, especially if traveling from China. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with 2019 novel coronavirus, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Confirm entry requirements, visa validity, and travel reservations before checking out of accommodation.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.