India on Monday opened its doors to foreign tourists, 18 months after the country imposed a ban on commercial international flights in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The government lifted restrictions on the arrival of foreign tourists from countries with reciprocal arrangements in chartered flights from October 15 onwards and has now expanded the permission to commercial flights. The government has also issued the first half of a million visas for free.
As part of its new rules, tourists from 99 reciprocating countries wouldn’t be required to undergo quarantine on their arrival. The government only requires them to monitor their health for 14 days upon arrival.
According to the rules laid down by the Health Ministry, the tourists should be fully vaccinated and follow all COVID-19.
The same rules, however, do not apply to tourists from United Kingdom, the European Union, China, Brazil and South Africa among other countries, and it is mandatory for them to undergo COVID-19 tests on arrival among other protocols.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Centre in March suspended visas granted to all foreign travelers. It later operated special ‘air bubbles’ with certain countries to allow eligible passengers to fly in and out of India. Soon, as the number of COVID cases dropped, the government green-flagged the issuance of visas except tourist visa to allow foreigners to travel and stay in India.
The reopening of regular international flights comes as India witnesses a fall in daily COVID-19 cases. Daily cases have been hovering at 10,000 for more than a month now.
India, with a tally of 35 million COVID-19 infections, however, stands second to the US in being the worst-affected country.
According to government data, around 79 per cent of the population above 18 has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 38 per cent has received both the doses.
India received less than 3 million foreign tourists in 2020, a fall of over 75 per cent compared to the footfall in 2019.