India eases non-tourist visa restrictions

New Delhi, Oct 22 (efe-epa).- India announced Thursday a gradual relaxation for foreigners entering the country, authorizing visas for non-tourists after more than seven months due to the Covid-19 crisis, amid a steady decline in fresh infections in the country.

“The government has decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals who wish to enter or leave India,” the Union Home Ministry said in an executive order.

This relaxation will allow all “overseas citizens of India (OCI) and persons of Indian origin (PIO) card holders and all other foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa, to enter by air or water routes through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts.”

Although regular commercial international flights remains suspended to and from India, this relaxation will apply to people traveling under the Vande Bharat repatriation mission, or within “air bubbles” that the south Asian country has with almost 20 nations.

Travellers must also comply with the institutional or home-based quarantine and the presentation of negative PCR test reports, along with other requirements from the authorities.

So far, the country has agreements with 18 countries for operating, under specific conditions, a number of round-trip flights. These countries include the United States, Qatar, Germany, and the United Kingdom, among others.

India has also “decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas (except electronic visa, tourist and medical visas),” which were suspended towards the end of March when the government ordered the suspension of flights and imposed a lockdown in the country.

This decision will allow foreign travelers to enter India for different purposes, such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medicine, among things, according to the ministry.

With a population of 1.35 billion, India has now recorded 7.7 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, of which 116,616 people have died.

However, with a steady decline of fresh cases in recent weeks, and a recovery rate of 89 percent, the south Asian country has only 9 percent active cases with 715,812 infections, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

India on Thursday reported 55,839 new cases and 702 deaths for the last 24 hours, a considerably low data compared to the peak of more than 90,000 cases recorded two months ago.

According to John Hopkins University, India has the highest recovery rate and the lowest mortality rate among the 20 most affected countries. EFE-EPA


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