COVID-19 Explainer: Here Is Why Countries Are Restricting Travel From India

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Source: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun

As COVID-19 cases rose across India touching 2.59 lakh on April 20 – New Zealand, Hong Kong, the UK and the US have either banned flight services to and from India, or issued advisories to their citizens against traveling.

On Tuesday the UAE issued revised regulations on testing for arrivals from India, while data from Canada showed that flights from New Delhi continued to be the top source of international passengers testing positive for COVID-19.

UAE COVID-19 Tests

A statement issued by the UAE administration on Tuesday said that passengers flying from India to Dubai would now have to follow revised regulations on PCR COVID-19 tests.

“Effective from April 22, 2021, passengers arriving in Dubai from India must be able to present a printed copy of a negative Covid-19 PCR test result from a test taken no more than 48 hours prior to the departure of the inbound flight to Dubai. The test result must also display a QR code,” state the revised guidelines on FlyDubai’s website.

In case of Emirates, revised guidelines are effective from immediate effect. “Passengers are required to take a Covid19 PCR test not more than 48 hours before departure,” states the travel requirement on the website.

Similar advisories have been issued by India’s flag carrier Air India, budget carrier Air India Express and private airline Spice Jet. Currently, passengers are required to undergo RT-PCR 72 hours before departure.

Reporting the developments, Khaleej Times said, passengers must also ensure that the ‘date and time’ of sample collection and time of reporting (result date and result time) are accurate. “The certificate must indicate a ‘negative’ test result, described either in Arabic or English, issued from a certified lab at the original point of destination where the passenger is travelling from,” the news report said.

UK ‘Red List’

Late Monday, the United Kingdom put India in its travel “red list” effective Friday. Shortly after that, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out an advisory saying “Travelers should avoid all travel to India”.

Similar Hong Kong too has activated an “emergency circuit breaker” and banned passenger flights from India for 14 days starting April 20. New Zealand, too, suspended entry of travellers from India earlier this month, the Indian Express said.

According to the UK, the decision to put India on the travel “red-list” was a result of detecting 103 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India. On Sunday, Hong Kong imposed a two-week flight ban from India citing a similar reason pertaining to a mutated strain of coronavirus coming out of India.

In addition to this, jurisdictions are also expressing concern at the sheer number of Covid-19 cases emerging in India. The US CDC’s advisory came alongside it updating India’s COVID-19 assessment from Level 3 to Level 4, which is the highest level on its scale.

What This Means:

Norms of the UK government state that if one arrives in Britain from India before 4 a.m., on Friday, April 23 (local time, London), you must self-isolate for 10 days in the place you’re staying and take a COVID-19 test on day two and day eight.

However, after 4 a.m. on Friday, April 23, only British, Irish or third-country national with residency rights who have been in India in the previous 10 days, will be allowed to enter the country. Those who fulfil the criteria to visit Britain will still need to quarantine in a designated quarantine hotel.

Explainer: Hong Kong’s 2 Week Ban

At least 49 passengers on a flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19, authorities said on Tuesday, as a two-week ban on all flights from India, as well as Pakistan and the Philippines took effect.

All of the passengers who tested positive flew into Hong Kong on a Vistara flight on April 4. Authorities in Hing Kong are concerned because 47 (initially) tested positive on a 188 seat Vistara flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong, after having tested negative just 72 hours prior.

To make things worse, only 8 cases were detected before they began quarantine and 39 were only detected later during hotel quarantine, 22 on day 12 of the quarantine.

In a statement Vistara said it ensures strict compliance with all guidelines issued by the Indian as well as the destination countries’ authorities for all flights, including all charter flights to and from Hong Kong.

“We will continue to be guided by any new requirements that may be introduced,” a Vistara spokesperson told Moneycontrol, after Hong Kong’s latest ban, which stays till May 3.

In the case of the New Zealand ban on April 8, 17 of the new 23 cases that were reported the earlier day, were from India. The country had not reported any local case for about 40 days.

According to Reuters, New Zealand issued orders for the ban after recording 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border on April 8, of which 17 were from India.

Within its borders, the South Pacific nation has virtually eliminated the coronavirus, having not reported any locally transmitted cases for about 40 days.

The Indian Express reported that New Zealand had been reviewing its border settings as more people with infections arrive in New Zealand recently, majority being from India, the news agency reported.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had in an April 7 news conference in Wellington said that the rolling average of positive cases has been steadily rising and hit the highest since October 2020.

Canada’s Top Source

The Toronto Sun reported that flights from India continue to be Canada’s top source of international passengers testing positive for COVID-19.

Data provided by Health Canada showed that nearly all of the twice-daily flights between Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and Toronto Pearson Airport carried passengers infected with COVID-19.

Of the 106 COVID-infected flights that landed in Canada since March 4, 30 originated from Delhi — nine landing at Vancouver and 21 at YYZ.

Health Canada doesn’t indicate how many passengers tested positive on each flight, instead providing three-row ‘ranges’ of where an infected person sat on the plane.

While seven of the 21 Toronto-bound Delhi flights list the affected rows as ‘unknown,’ the rest show a minimum of six rows impacted by infected passengers, suggesting each flight carried more than one case.

Air Canada 43 on March 9 showed nearly half of the 42-row Boeing 787 Dreamliner affected, including the entire business-class and premium economy cabins, and all but eight rows of economy.

Air India 187 on March 13 reported 22 rows of the Boeing 777-300ER’s 35-row economy cabin impacted, the newspaper reported.

Sixty-five infected International flights landed at Toronto over the past two weeks (ending April 20), including six flights each from Dubai and Istanbul, five from Doha, four from Frankfurt, three each from Addis Ababa and Kingston, Jamaica, two from Cairo, Amsterdam and Panama City, and one each from Islamabad, London Heathrow and Mexico City.


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