International flights will resume to and from India from December 15, the civil aviation ministry said on Friday (November 26), ending over a year long restrictions on movement due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The matter of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India has been examined in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and it has been decided that scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India may be resumed from December 15, 2021,” the ministry of civil aviation said in a statement.
Although the number of Covid-19 cases are steadily declining, the health ministry has raised concern over the B.1.1.529 variant of coronavirus, said to be a fast spreader, detected in South Africa.
“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country, in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had written to states and Union Territories regarding the variant.
He had asked states to ensure screening and testing of all international travellers entering India from “at-risk” countries, which for the said variant are South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
The United Kingdom, Germany and Italy have banned travel from South Africa while many other countries are mulling the same in the wake of the alarm created by the new variant.
International flights were suspended in India on March 23, 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Special flights were allowed from July but with strict restrictions wherein passengers had to undergo screening and testing along the travel process.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin had written to the aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Thursday (November 25) to allow direct flights to Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia to facilitate smooth and direct travel for the Tamil diaspora in these countries.
As India had arrangements with 28 countries for restricted international travel, travellers to and from other nations had to take a detour and spend more time and money for their trips.
Domestic flights, which were restricted during the Covid-19 lockdown, were resumed at full capacity from October, in a phased manner.