South Asian states expand travel restrictions to and from countries affected by COVID-19, as of March 12. Health screenings ongoing.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

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

This alert began 12 Mar 2020 11:30 GMT and is scheduled to expire 26 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: 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 have implemented enhanced health screenings for passengers from China and other regions affected by coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Screening measures and entry restrictions, though variable, have expanded as in-country cases increase across the region.

As of March 12, the following restrictions are in place, 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. Commercial disruptions due to the closure of the Chaman border with Pakistan are likely to continue through at least March 16. Extended school closures until April and restrictions on public gatherings are underway in Herat Province and other border areas.
  • Bhutan: Effective March 6, Bhutan has banned all incoming foreign tourists through at least March 20; non-local manpower availability may be affected in the coming days. Other elevated measures introduced include quarantine of suspect cases, as well as school closures and restrictions on public gatherings in Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha districts. Authorities had earlier mandated thermal scanning at all entry points, with health checks at land ports with India. Bhutan has advised its citizens against non-essential travel to countries with reported COVID-19 cases.
  • Bangladesh: Officials in India's Mizoram State have closed land borders with Bangladesh as of March 10; enhanced health screenings are underway at other ports of entry, mainly airports and other land crossings between Bangladesh and India. Authorities are suspending on-arrival and electronic visa issuance for travelers from Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Similar restrictions are ongoing for passengers from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan since Feb. 3. In addition, officials are barring entry for passengers from Italy, South Korea, Japan, and Kuwait who do not have medical certificates indicating that they are not infected with COVID-19.Officials are advising Bangladeshi citizens to avoid non-essential travel to countries affected by COVID-19, and suggesting that travelers from such countries minimize participation in public gatherings for at least the first 14 days of their stay in Bangladesh.
  • Maldives: Authorities have suspended direct flights to and from China since Jan. 30, and barred cruise ships from Maldivian waters from Feb. 28. Officials are also temporarily banning entry for all foreigners from Bangladesh, Italy, mainland China and 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 abroad; authorities are limiting extracurricular activities in schools and enforcing temporary movement and exit restrictions in tourist resorts with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
  • Nepal: Nepal has temporarily suspended on-arrival visa issuance for nationals of mainland China, Germany, France, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Japan effective March 10; travelers must approach consulates with medical certification for visa application. Officials have also advised Nepalese citizens against travel to the above-mentioned countries, as well as possible quarantine upon return from them. The Kimathanka, Rasuwagadhi, and Tatopani land border crossings remain closed indefinitely. Temperature screenings are mandatory at all entry points, especially land crossings with India, though the effectiveness in enforcing checks remains unclear. Foreign nationals with recent travel history to countries affected by COVID-19 may be required to submit health certification before entry via land ports. Symptomatic travelers may be subject to enhanced checks and possible quarantine. Himalaya Airlines (H9) 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. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has also suspended flights to mainland China and Japan until at least March 15; additional disruptions could affect air travel to other affected countries. Officials are maintaining enhanced screening and land border closures with Afghanistan and Iran, school closures across the Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Sindh regions, and a precautionary state of emergency in border districts of Balochistan Province.
  • Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka indefinitely suspended the issuance of on-arrival visas for foreign tourists, except Maldivean and Singaporean nationals, from March 11 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Authorities had already suspended on-arrival visas for Chinese nationals since Feb. 3; electronic visas will continue to be issued. As of March 10, passengers with recent travel history to Iran, Italy, and South Korea will undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated medical facilities; travelers from other affected countries may be subject to possible quarantine in addition to enhanced screening in the coming days. Officials have also banned the disembarkation of international cruise ship passengers.


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. Recently affected routes include those connecting Qatar and Kuwait to multiple South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

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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