South Asian states enhance health screenings and some expand travel restrictions to and from countries affected by COVID-19, as of Feb. 28.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

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

This alert began 28 Feb 2020 08:06 GMT and is scheduled to expire 16 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 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. 28, the following restrictions are enforced, modified, or planned:

  • Afghanistan: Enhanced health screenings are underway at all entry points, mainly land border crossings with Iran and Pakistan. Authorities briefly enforced a travel ban and land border closures between Afghanistan and Iran Feb. 25-26; similar restrictions could recur intermittently in the coming weeks.
  • Bhutan: In addition to the thermal scanning of all air travelers, Bhutan has advised its citizens against non-essential travel to countries with reported COVID-19 cases. Officials have announced passengers with travel history to any affected country may be quarantined for at least 14 days if symptomatic. Users of land crossings with India will undergo increased health checks.
  • Bangladesh: Starting Feb. 3, authorities 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. Japanese and South Korean citizens will no longer be eligible for an on-arrival visa as of Feb. 28. Passengers with a travel history to mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, 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. Authorities have suspended flight operations to and from mainland China, as well as Iran; multiple Indian air carriers have also suspended services to Hong Kong through June. Indian authorities also advised citizens against non-essential travel to Iran, Italy, Singapore, and South Korea, as of Feb. 28.
  • Maldives: Officials suspended direct flights to and from China since Jan. 30, and barred cruise ships from Maldivian waters as of Feb. 28. Starting Feb. 3, officials temporarily banned all travelers, except Maldivian citizens, entering the country from mainland China, Iran, as well as Cheongdo and Daegu of South Korea as an origin or transit point. Authorities may 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. Temperature screenings are mandatory at all entry points, especially land crossings with India, though the effectiveness in enforcing checks remains unclear. Symptomatic travelers may be subject to enhanced checks and possible quarantine. Himalaya Air suspended flight operations to and from China, starting Feb. 7. The flight disruptions will continue until at least March 28.
  • Pakistan: Authorities have indefinitely banned all flights to and from Iran, as of Feb. 28. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has also suspended flights to mainland China and Japan, until at least March 15; additional disruptions could affect air connectivity to other affected countries. As of Feb. 28, officials have ordered land border closures with Iran, school closures across the Balochistan and Sindh provinces, as well as a precautionary state of emergency in border districts of Balochistan Province for enhanced screening and surveillance measures. Increased health screenings have also been implemented at the Torkham land border with Afghanistan.
  • 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; passengers from other affected countries may undergo the same in the coming days.


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. Airlines serving and operating out of impacted countries may suspend or curtail services due to precautionary measures, government restrictions, or low consumer demand.

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. 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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