After US advisory and UK 'red list', now Canada and UAE restrict travel from India as COVID cases surge

Several other countries including Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand have placed some or complete restriction on the arrival of passengers from India which reported the world's highest daily tally of nearly 3.15 lakh cases

FP Staff April 23, 2021 07:57:51 IST
After US advisory and UK 'red list', now Canada and UAE restrict travel from India as COVID cases surge

Representational image. Reuters

On a day when India recorded the world's highest daily tally of 3,14,835 new COVID-19 infections, the UAE banned travel from the country for ten days.

The travel ban will come into effect from 11.59 pm on Saturday, 24 April, and is subject to review after 10 days, the Gulf News reported, as per PTI.

As per the new rules, passengers arriving from India will not be allowed to enter the UAE unless they have spent 14 days in other countries. However, departure flights will continue to operate and the ban will not extend to UAE citizens, diplomatic passport holders and official delegations.

The UAE, which on Thursday recorded a vaccination rate of 100.10 per 100 people and has administered 9.9 million doses to its citizens, has become just the latest country to impose curbs on travel from India.

Canada too banned all flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in that region. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the ban would start late Thursday, but cargo flights from India and Pakistan will continue.

Health Minister Minister Patty Hajdu said half the people who are testing positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Canada by airplane came from India. Flights from India account for about one fifth of the country's air traffic.

India makes UK's 'red list'

Just hours after Downing Street had announced the cancellation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India due to a spike in coronavirus infections, the UK on Monday added India to its COVID-19 travel "red list", which effectively bans all travel from it and makes a 10-day hotel quarantine compulsory for UK residents returning home.

The UK's move came after mounting criticism from the Opposition which accused the government of acting 'too slowly' to restrict the spread of a variant that might be more resistant to vaccines.

Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the move in the House of Commons as he revealed that 103 cases of the so-called Indian variant had been identified in the UK, of which the "vast majority have links to international travel".

He said that samples of that variant have been analysed to see if the new variant has any "concerning characteristics", such as greater transmissibility or resistance to treatments and vaccines.

"After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we've made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list," the minister told MPs. "This means anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen... cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days," he said.

The new rules, which Hancock said has not been taken “lightly”, will come into force from Friday.

Israel issues travel warning

Israel issued a travel advisory on Thursday warning citizens including those who have recovered from or been vaccinated against COVID-19, to refrain from travelling to India, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey because of high COVID morbidity rates in the seven countries.

The statement from the Israeli health ministry also noted the presence of alarming COVID variants in the seven countries, and recommended that the public avoid all travel outside of Israel if possible, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

The health ministry's Director-General Chezy Levy said that unvaccinated foreign workers and students from India must quarantine in State-run quarantine hotels, it said. With the number of Israelis vaccinated against COVID-19 topping five million and the country experiencing fewer than 100 new daily cases, the government ended its outdoor mask mandate on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Israel said last week it will start allowing the limited entry of vaccinated tourist groups as of 23 May. The return of foreigner tourists after Israel had closed its borders at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020 would boost the country''s economy, which contracted 2.5 per cent in 2020, and battered tourism sector.

Since Israel entered its first lockdown in March 2020, non-residents – with rare exceptions – have not been allowed into the country. In January, as part of the third lockdown, even Israeli citizens were prevented from entering. However, that particular restriction was lifted in March.


'Unprecented risks' warns US

Also on Monday, the  US advised its citizens to avoid travelling to India, even if they are fully vaccinated, as there is a "very high level" of COVID-19 in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which uses science-based Travel Health Notices to alert travellers to health threats around the world and advise on how to protect themselves, noted that "the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose unprecedented risks to travellers".

The CDC, which has a four-level system for COVID-19, placed India in "Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19".

“Travellers should avoid all travel to India. Because of the current situation in India even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India,” the CDC said in a statement.

"If you must travel to India, get fully vaccinated before travel. All travellers should wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, and wash their hands," it said.

The US, which has been making great strides in its own vaccination programme with one-fourth of its citizens inoculated against the coronavirus, has been evasive in allowing the export of critical COVID-19 vaccine raw materials to India begin production of Covovax vaccine.

The issue received global attention in recent days after Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), tagged President Biden in a tweet.

Pakistan halts travellers 

Also on Monday, Pakistan decided to ban for two weeks travellers coming from India.

Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) took the decision to impose a two-week ban on travel from India in a meeting chaired by its chief Asad Umar who is also the Minister for Planning and Development, according to a statement.

“The forum decided to place India in the list of Category C countries for two weeks. There will be a ban on inbound passengers coming from India via air and land routes,” the statement read.

Other countries already listed in Category C include South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Comoros, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Seychelles, Somalia, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Pakistan itself is grappling with COVID-19, with 148 people died over a 24-hour span on Wednesday and the chief of Pakistan's anti-coronavirus body warning on Wednesday that major cities may be closed down if precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 are not taken seriously.

Pakistan on Wednesday reported 5,499 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 7,72,381.

Hong Kong bars flights till 3 May

On Sunday, Hong Kong suspended all flights connecting it with India from Tuesday till 3 May. The Hong Kong government has also suspended flights to and from Pakistan as well as the Philippines for the aforementioned time period.

The Hong Kong government's decision came after 50 passengers of two Vistara flights this month were found positive for COVID-19 when tested on arrival. According to rules, all passengers who want to come to Hong Kong need to have a COVID-negative RTPCR result with them from a test done 72 hours prior to the journey.

Earlier on Sunday, the Hong Kong government announced a suspension of all Vistara flights on the Mumbai-Hong Kong route till 2 May. The decision was taken as three passengers on Vistara's Mumbai-Hong Kong flight on Sunday tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival.

Till Sunday, a total of 47 passengers who were on Vistara's Delhi-Hong Kong flight of 4 April tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong. Vistara's flights on the Delhi-Hong Kong route had earlier been banned from 6 to 19 April.

Singapore's safety measures

Singapore on Tuesday announced new safety measures including fewer approvals for foreigners who are not permanent residents and are coming in from India. All travellers from India must now isolate for seven days at a residence after spending 14 days at a dedicated facility for those serving a stay home notice.

The new measures came amid a recent rise in locally-transmitted cases and as a new three-person cluster here has just been linked to a 43-year-old Indian national who was "probably reinfected" in India.

The work pass holder, who was asymptomatic, had tested positive on arrival from India on 2 April but was discharged after a few days as he was considered no longer infectious. But he went on to infect his sister-in-law and her husband.

As of Wednesday, Singapore has reported a total of 60,880 COVID-19 cases and 30 fatalities from the disease.

New Zealand's temporary ban

New Zealand, which has had remarkable success in containing the spread of COVID-19, on 8 April announced a temporary ban on travellers coming from India, including its citizens, from 11 to 28 April.

The travel restriction came in the aftermath of the country recorded a mere 23 new positive coronavirus cases, of which 17 came from India, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield was quoted as saying by media reports.

While arrivals from India had triggered the risk assessment, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also said the government would be looking at risks posed by other COVID-19 hotspot countries.

“This is not a permanent arrangement but rather a temporary measure,” Ardern had said, adding that the temporary hold would also help reduce the risk that travellers themselves faced.

With inputs from PTI


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