South Asian states enhance health screenings and some impose travel restrictions to and from countries affected by COVID-19, as of Feb. 24.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

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

This alert began 24 Feb 2020 09:10 GMT and is scheduled to expire 24 Feb 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

Several countries in South Asia have advised citizens to avoid travel to mainland China, and 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. 24, the following restrictions are enforced, modified, or planned:

  • Afghanistan: Enhanced health screenings are underway at all airports. Authorities have indefinitely banned air and ground travel to and from Iran; land borders are likely to remain closed in the coming weeks.
  • 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 travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan until at least March 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, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam will undergo enhanced health screening, and authorities may quarantine symptomatic 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 mainland China and Hong Kong; Indian nationals have been advised against non-essential travel to Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea, as well as Singapore.
  • 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. The Health Protection Agency has advised Maldivian citizens to exercise caution when traveling to Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
  • 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 March 28.
  • Pakistan: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended all flights to Beijing, until at least March 15, after a previous suspension Jan. 29-Feb. 2; additional disruptions could affect air connectivity to other destinations in mainland China. Officials have closed all borders with Iran indefinitely, as well as declared a precautionary state of emergency in border districts of Balochistan Province for enhanced screening and surveillance measures.
  • Sri Lanka: Authorities have, from Feb. 3, suspended on-arrival visas for all Chinese nationals; electronic visas will continue to be issued. Passengers with recent travel history to China and South Korea will undergo enhanced screening, and may be quarantined or monitored by local health officials.

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.

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. Plan for shipping delays due to land border closures.

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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