China suspends Vande Bharat flights from India amid COVID scare

Order will not affect diplomats and C-visa holders, while foreigners with emergency and humanitarian needs to visit China can submit visa application to the Chinese embassy or consulates in India

Scheduled international flights had been suspended since March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government has been operating special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission. Photo for representational purpose only: iStock

China on Thursday (November 5) indefinitely suspended air travel of non-Chinese from India, days after 23 flyers of an Air India Delhi-Wuhan flight tested COVID-19 positive on arrival.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hereby announced that China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals in India holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits,” the Chinese government said in an announcement on Thursday.

Although scheduled international flights were stopped on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Air India was operating special flights to different Chinese cities under the Centre’s Vande Bharat Mission (VBM).

China also barred the entry of non-Chinese residents from Britain, Belgium and the Philippines while asking visitors from the US, France and Germany to furnish results of additional health tests.


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China in March had banned the entry of foreigners in view of the pandemic, but had eased the restrictions on September 28, allowing foreigners with valid residence permits to fly in.

Reports quoting officials in Beijing say over 1,500 Indians had registered to return to China. The Centre would have operated four VBM flights to China from November 13 onwards, which now will be put on hold.

The Chinese foreign ministry has called the decision “reasonable and fair”.

“China is drawing on the practices of many countries and adjusting its handling of the entry of the relevant people into China based on the changing pandemic situation,” Wang Wenbin, the ministry spokesperson, was quoted as saying at a daily briefing on Thursday.

As far as India is concerned, the Chinese government has said that the Chinese embassy in New Delhi as well as consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata have been asked not to stamp on health certificates given by normal passport holders.

A statement issued by the Chinese government, however, said that Chinese diplomatic, service, courtesy and C visas will not be affected by the order.

“Foreigners with emergency or humanitarian needs to visit China can submit visa application to the Chinese Embassy/Consulates in India. The entry into China with visas issued after November 3, 2020, is not affected,” the statement said.

The Chinese government also clarified that the suspension is a temporary measure taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 and further adjustments will be made in due future.