India opens up for foreigners for first time since pandemic began

To encourage travellers to visit India, the government is also planning to issue five lakh free visas through next March

New Delhi: After shutting down its borders to international visitors for about 20 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, India on Monday allowed fully vaccinated foreign travellers from a list of 99 countries to enter without the need to quarantine themselves.

To encourage travellers to visit India, the government is also planning to issue five lakh free visas through next March. The move is likely to boost the tourism and hospitality sectors, which had been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By easing travel restrictions, those arriving from these 99 countries will be allowed to skip a post-arrival Covid-19 test. At the same time, though, travellers will have to monitor their health over the next 14 days.

The list of 99 countries includes the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Singapore and Brazil. The major countries missing from the list include China, Japan, Indonesia and South Korea.

The countries on the list fall under two categories -- the ones which have reciprocal agreements with the Indian government to recognise each other’s vaccine certificates for either locally approved vaccines or those recognised by WHO, and those which don’t have such agreements but allow fully vaccinated Indian citizens to travel there.

This is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists on commercial flights to enter the country since March 2020, when it imposed one of the world’s toughest lockdowns in order to contain the pandemic.

Fully vaccinated tourists on chartered flights were allowed to enter India starting last month. The decision to allow foreign tourists has come at a time when the country’s coronavirus infections have fallen significantly, with daily new cases hovering at just above 10,000 for over a month. The active caseload of Covid-19 cases has declined to 1,34,096 -- the lowest in 523 days -- with 10,229 people testing positive for the disease in the last 24 hours. The death toll due to the virus has reached 4,63,655, after 125 fresh fatalities reported in the last 24 hours.

Nearly 80 per cent of India’s adult population has already got at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose while about 40 per cent is fully vaccinated. The Centre has asked the state governments to conduct door-to-door campaigns to accelerate the vaccination campaign.

The daily rise in new infections has been below 20,000 for 38 straight days and less than 50,000 for 141 consecutive days. Active cases have declined to 1,34,096, comprising 0.39 per cent of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate has been recorded at 98.26 per cent, the highest since March 2020. There is a decrease of 1,822 cases in the active Covid-19 caseload in 24 hours.

Of the 125 new fatalities in the last 24 hours, 65 are from Kerala and 18 are from Maharashtra.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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