Coronavirus: travel from India to UAE remains suspended until May 14

Australian health ministry says citizens returning from India could face up to five years in jail and fines

Billboards along Sheikh Zayed highway and other roads in dubai display a message to India to stay strong, #staystrongindia on April 29 th, 2021. 
Antonie Robertson / The National.
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One-way flights from the UAE to India continue, despite the suspension of operations between the countries, which will remain until May 14.

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said close to 9,000 passengers returned to the country at the weekend –more than 5,000 were from the UAE.

This is part of the government's Vande Bharat or Salute India air corridor and included six flights from Dubai, three from Abu Dhabi and one from Sharjah.

Emirates airline said it would not operate passenger flights from India until May 14.

“Passengers who had travelled from or transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE,” it said.

The UAE ban on travel from India began at midnight on April 24 in response to the surge in Covid-19 cases there.

Those exempt from travel restrictions between India and the UAE include Emirati citizens, diplomats, business delegations and golden visa holders.

Air Arabia said flights from India remain suspended and exempt passengers would require a negative PCR test with a QR code taken within 48 hours from the flight departure time.

Australia is the latest country to tighten restrictions, with journeys from India designated illegal.

The health ministry on Friday said the ruling was made following a risk assessment "based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India."

This is the first time Australians could face criminal action for returning home.

Greg Hunt, Australia’s minister for health and aged care, said the ban applied to passengers who had been in India within 14 days of the person’s intended arrival date in Australia.

The government described it as a "temporary pause" which begins from Monday midnight and will be reconsidered on May 15 following advice from the chief medical officer.

Failure to comply will result in strict penalties that could result in a five-year jail sentence, a fine of Australian $66,000 (US$51,000), or both, under the country’s Biosecurity Act 2015.

India has been reporting more than 300,000 new cases of Covid-19 every day for the past week.

The total number of cases in India has crossed 19 million and more than 211,000 people have died.

The US also announced restrictions on travel from India from Tuesday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the policy would be implemented in light of "extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India."

She said the government made the decision based on advice from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This means most non-US citizens who have been in India within the last 14 days will not be eligible to travel to the US.

The restriction is similar to the entry ban on non-US travellers who have recently visited South Africa, Brazil, the UK, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

China and Iran are also included.

US citizens, permanent US residents and their family members are among those permitted to return to the US.

Other countries that have suspended travel from India are the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Medical supplies, including ventilators, oxygen containers and anti-viral medicines, such as Remdesivir, have been sent to India by a number of countries, including the UAE, the UK and the US.