South Asian states enhance health screenings and some impose travel restrictions to and from countries affected by COVID-19, as of Feb. 18.

Severity: Informational Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

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

This alert began 18 Feb 2020 04:47 GMT and is scheduled to expire 26 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

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

Summary
Several countries in South Asia have implemented enhanced health screenings for passengers from China and other regions affected by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Screening measures vary across the region.

As of Feb. 18, 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: Starting Feb. 3, authorities have suspended electronic visas for nationals of China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan until at least Mar. 3; the concerned groups must 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, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand, since Jan. 15 will undergo enhanced health screening, and authorities may quarantine such individuals for up to 28 days upon arrival in India. Officials have also enhanced checks at sea and land ports. At least two airlines have canceled flight operations to and from China and Hong Kong.
  • Maldives: Officials have suspended direct flights to and from China since Jan. 30. Starting 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 quarantine Maldivian citizens arriving from these territories for at least 14 days.
  • Nepal: Nepal has closed the Kimathanka, Rasuwagadhi, and Tatopani land border crossings. Health screenings are mandatory at all other land crossings, mainly with India. Himalaya Air has suspended flight operations to and from China, starting Feb. 7. The flight disruptions will continue until at least Mar. 28.
  • 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, from Feb. 3, suspended on-arrival visas for all Chinese nationals; 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 COVID-19, 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.

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