Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, India has suspended all visas for citizens of other countries, with the exception of diplomats and long-term workers. This suspension will last one month and will likely be lifted once the virus is under control.
The new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in Wuhan on 31 December 2019. Over 500,000 cases have been reported in total, a large proportion of wich are in mainland China.
However, with the number ofconfirmed patients in other countries rising, some states like India are taking action to prevent the spread of the disease.
What Does the India Visa Suspension Mean for Travelers?
Under normal circumstances, travelers from many countries were eligible for the electronic visa or eVisa for India.
A minority of nationalities must apply at an embassy for a traditional consular visa, which has also been suspended.
On 2 February, it was announced that these services would be temporarily unavailable for certain travelers in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus. The list of travelers affected by the suspension was extended on March 13th to all nationalities due to the increasing number of cases worldwide.
Who Is Affected by the India Visa Suspension?
India’s Health Ministry announced that the visa restriction for all foreign citizens would come into effect from 120:00 GMT on March 13th, stating that:
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020”.
Visa-free entry for travelers of Indian origin has also been temporarily halted.
However, the following advisory notice was released by the Health Ministry addressing individuals with exceptional circumstances:
“Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for a compelling reason may contact the nearest Indian Mission.”
Some categories will not be affected by the new measure. Such exceptions include holders of:
- Diplomatic visas
- UN/ international organization visas
- Long-term work visas
- Project visas
Moreover, Indian citizens who visited areas heavily affected by the coronavirus (China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain, and Germany) after February 15th are subject to mandatory 14-day quarantine.
In an additional move, it was announced on March 22nd that all international commercial flights would be banned from landing in India for one week.
How do visa restrictions affect travelers already in India?
Travelers already in India and unable to return home due to border closures and the suspension of flights can apply for a visa extension.
Foreigners are requested to complete the India eVisa extension online rather than going to the office in order to maintain social distancing.
By doing so foreigners can remain in India with a valid permit until they are able to leave India.
How Has Coronavirus Affected India?
To date (March 27th) 803 positive cases of Covid-19 have been identified in India, 73 patients have already made a full recovery and most others are in a mild condition.
There have also been confirmed cases of coronavirus in Indian citizens abroad, including 2 of the crew members of an isolated cruise ship in Japan.
The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China. Although Hubei is far from the Indian border, cases of the disease have occurred across the PRC and a handful of cases have been reported in several other countries.
In response, India has evacuated 647 of its own citizens, along with 7 Maldivians from Hubei by air. The evacuees have been placed in quarantine for 14 days in a medical camp in Manesar, near Delhi.
21 airports across India have installed thermal screening and medical check-up stations, including at Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. Quarantine centers have been established and those showing symptoms are being directed to these facilities for testing.
With these precautions and the temporary visa ban on travelers, India has only had a limited number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.
While there is very little risk of catching coronavirus in the country, international visitors should always discuss the vaccines needed to travel to India with their healthcare practitioner a few weeks before their departure.
What Is COVID-19
The Wuhan coronavirus, named COVID-19, is a new strain of coronavirus that had never been seen in humans before December 2019. Being a novel virus, no cure has been found yet.
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, ranging from 4 mild variants that cause the common cold to serious types that cause illnesses like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
COVID-19 causes mild disease in most patients. However, fatalities have occurred—mainly among the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Typical symptoms are similar to those of a cold or flu:
- Sore throat
Individuals who discover they have difficulty breathing should consult a doctor immediately and, if necessary, self-isolate.
There is a huge international effort to contain the spread of the virus and find an effective method of treating it.
Many countries have placed restrictions on travel from China and other regions until the Wuhan coronavirus is contained.