India begins issuing tourist visas for first time since March 2020

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India has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists, almost 18 months after international flights were completely halted in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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From Friday, the country has started granting tourist visas to those able to travel to the country by chartered flights.

The country’s home ministry said in a statement issued last week that tourists wishing to travel to India by regular commercial flights will have to wait for another month till November 15.

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The government said it has decided to ease restrictions on visas and international travel in consultation with various departments, allowing foreign tourists to enter the country in time for the start of India’s high season, when tourism represents a major contribution to the economy.

It is not clear whether tourists will have to undergo additional quarantine or testing measures for Covid-19. Under current protocols for other types of visas and those entering India from most other countries, travelers are required to show that they are negative for Covid with an RT-PCR test up to 72 hours before travel and again on arrival. be tested with.

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The decision to ease restrictions comes as the country has seen a steady decline in daily coronavirus cases from a peak of 400,000 in May to nearly 20,000. The country has given more than 970 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine since launching its vaccination campaign in January this year, with nearly 70 percent of its eligible population receiving at least one dose.

India saw a 75 per cent drop in the number of foreign tourists visiting the country in 2020 – astonishing, given that the country was only open to tourists for the first two and a half months of the year.

To boost the pandemic-hit tourism sector, the finance ministry announced in June that the first 500,000 tourists would be waived their visa fees whenever borders reopen.

However, there is some concern that the potential influx of foreign travelers will coincide with both the most active domestic tourism and the festive season. Health officials continue to warn against complacency on Covid-19, and some experts fear tourism hotspots could contribute to a third wave of the pandemic.

India is not the only country that has seen its tourism sector hit by the pandemic. According to a joint report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the crash in international tourist arrivals since the pandemic began could result in a total loss of $4 trillion to the world economy. Is. end of 2021.

Meanwhile other popular South and Southeast Asian tourist destinations are opening up. Indonesia’s Bali has been fully opened to immunizations for foreign tourists from 19 countries, although there are some strict rules for travelers to follow. And from November 1, Thailand plans to phase out its quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers from 10 low-risk countries.

Additional reporting by agencies

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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