In an effort to contain the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, the government on Wednesday suspended all tourist and medical visas till April 15.
The government asked Indians to avoid foreign travel, and said they could be quarantined for 14 days on their return. It also asked non-resident Indians (NRIs) to avoid travelling to India. Visa-free travel facility granted to non-OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card holders is also kept in abeyance till April 15, the government said.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of a group of ministers under the chairmanship of Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the national capital.
At least 10 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the country, taking the total number to 60 on Wednesday. However, according to state health officials, the number of confirmed cases may be around 65. Over 4,300 people around the world have succumbed to the virus so far.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organisations, employment and project visas stand suspended till April 15, 2020. This
will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020, at the port of departure,” a government statement said. A meeting between the Fifteenth Finance Commission and finance ministers of various states, scheduled to be held on Friday, has been deferred due to the pandemic.
The meeting was to discuss issues related to the final report of the Commission for FYs 2021-26, which is likely to be submitted in October.
The government advised incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, to avoid non-essential travel. It said they can be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days on their arrival in India. It “strongly advised” Indian nationals to avoid all non-essential travel abroad.
“On their return, they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days,” it said. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for a compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian mission, the government said. It said all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany after February 15 would be quarantined for a minimum 14 days. The government said international traffic through land borders, will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities. These will be notified separately by the home ministry.
The government’s decision to suspend visas for all countries will hit inbound travel and lead to a further cancellation of flights. Already, Indian and foreign carriers have been adjusting schedules in view of visa restrictions in India and overseas. Sources said Air India was stopping its flights to Italy and Korea. Several other airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Thai and ANA, have curtailed their India flights.-Business Standard