India suspends tourist visas over coronavirus

Tourists wear facemasks as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak, near Taj Mahal in Agra on March 5, 2020. PHOTO | PAWAN SHARMA | AFP

New Delhi

India suspended all tourist visas until April 15 and said it would quarantine travellers arriving from seven virus-hit countries in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, the government said in a statement.

The visa suspension begins March 13 at 1200 GMT at the port of departure, the statement read. Diplomatic visas and visas for international organisations, employment and projects however are exempt.

All travellers, including Indian nationals, “arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days,” the government’s Press Information Bureau said.

The number of cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in India has doubled to 60 in the past four days, increasing public fears and the government’s state of alert.

Many of the cases have been blamed on Indians who have travelled or worked in badly hit countries in Europe and the Middle East.

The decision was reached following a meeting of ministers led by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, the statement read.

The government also “strongly advised” Indians against non-essential foreign travel.

“On their return they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days,” the statement read.

Visa-free travel granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders — some three million people, not nationals but from ethnic Indian families living abroad — is “also kept in abeyance till April 15,” the statement read.

As for land borders, traffic “will be restricted to designated check points with robust screening facilities.”

Foreign nationals who plan to travel to India “for compelling reasons” can contact their nearest Indian mission, the statement said.


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