US to restrict travel from India over Covid surge, starting on Tuesday

CDC warns against travel due to 'extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads' in India

A passenger wearing a protective mask uses a mobile phone before an Avelo Airlines flight at Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport (STS) in Santa Rosa, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. New money is flowing to low-cost airlines in the U.S. as they take on giant carriers racing to recover from the unprecedented collapse in travel during the pandemic. Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg
Powered by automated translation

The US will restrict travel from India starting on May 4, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in Covid-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially more dangerous variants.

"On the issue of India, we have announced that there is going to be a travel restriction starting on Tuesday," US Vice President Kamala Harris said on Friday.

President Joe Biden's administration made the decision based on advice from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India,” Ms Psaki said.

Mr Biden in January issued a similar ban on most non-US citizens entering the country who had recently been in South Africa.

He also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-US travellers who have been in Brazil, the UK, Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders.

The policy means most non-US citizens who have been in one of those countries – and now India – within the last 14 days are not eligible to travel to the US.

China and Iran are also included in the policy.

Second only to the US in total infections, India has reported more than 300,000 new cases daily for nine days in a row – reporting another global record of 386,452 on Friday.

"There is no question that it is a great tragedy, in terms of the loss of life, and as I have said before and I will say again, we as a country have made a commitment to the people of India to support them," Ms Harris said on Friday.

She told press that the US would be sending an aircraft with oxygen and other supplies to India on Friday evening.

Total Covid-19 deaths in India have surpassed 200,000 and the number of cases is nearing 19 million – with nearly 8 million reported since February alone – as virulent new strains have combined with "superspreader" events such as political rallies and religious festivals.

Medical experts say real numbers may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

"We are all part of a world community," Ms Harris said.

"To the extent that any of us as human beings who have any level of compassion see suffering anywhere around the world, it impacts all of us."

Other countries have imposed similar travel restrictions on India, including the UK, Germany, Italy and Singapore, while Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand have suspended all commercial travel from the country.

Permanent US residents and their family members, plus some other non-US citizens will be permitted to return to the US under the order.

Ms Harris has family in India and told the press she has not contacted them since the US travel ban was announced.