Biden set to ban most travel from India to US to limit Covid-19 spread

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US President Joe Biden is expected to impose new travel restrictions on India starting on Tuesday in light of the Covid-19 epidemic, barring most non-US citizens from entering the United States, a White House official told Reuters.

The new restrictions are on the advice of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are imposed “in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 case loads and multiple variants circulating in India,” the official said.

A formal announcement is expected on Friday and the policy will take effect on Tuesday, May 4 at 12.01am ET (12.01pm, Singapore time).

Reuters first reported the expected travel restrictions.

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

He also reimposed an entry ban on nearly all non-US travellers who have been in Brazil, the United Kingdom, 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 United States.

China and Iran are also both covered by the policy.

The Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment.

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

Total deaths have surpassed 200,000 and cases are nearing 19 million – nearly eight million since February alone – as virulent new strains have combined with “super-spreader” events such as political rallies and religious festivals.

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

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

On Wednesday, the White House said the United States is sending supplies worth more than US$100 million (S$130 million) to India to help it fight the Covid-19 surge.

The supplies include 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and one million rapid diagnostic tests. The United States also has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make over 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the White House.

Air travel

Permanent US residents and family members and some other non-US citizens are permitted to return to the United States under the order.

Nearly all travellers to the United States by air must show proof of a negative coronavirus test or recovery from Covid-19.

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In recent weeks, the White House and US agencies have begun holding conversations about how to eventually unwind the policy that bars travel to the United States from many parts of the world.

US international air travel remains down 60 per cent from pre-Covid-19 levels, while US domestic air travel is down 40 per cent, according to industry trade group Airlines for America.

US airlines and travel groups have urged the White House to set benchmarks for the eventual loosening of restrictions.

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