Travel to India during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on March 26.

(CNN) — If you’re planning a trip to India, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

India swiftly closed its borders at the start of the pandemic, banning all scheduled international flights in March 2020. Tourists are still banned, though those traveling on other visas from the continents of Europe, Africa and South America are now allowed, along with travelers from other destinations who meet strict criteria.

What’s on offer

The question is, what isn’t on offer in India? This vast country has an astonishing range of landscapes, architecture, cultures and religions. Most first-timers stick to the “golden triangle” of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, but other big hitters for newbies include the Kerala waterways, beaches of Goa, and Mumbai, one of the world’s most thrilling cities.

Who can go

Tourists are not yet permitted. Only Indian nationals, those moving to the country as residents, and those from certain countries who qualify for visas other than tourist visas may go. From the US, UK and Canada things are more restricted — only diplomats and those listed in a government memorandum may travel. However other visa holders from the European Union, Africa and South America may travel — as long as it is not on a tourist visa.

What are the restrictions?

Regular international flights are suspended, although Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights are operating, as are “air transport bubbles” from various countries around the world — although only those meeting the visa criteria for entry are allowed on these flights.

All arrivals are screened. Anyone showing symptoms will be taken to a medical facility.

Land borders are closed, other than for returning India nationals.

As of February 22, all travelers must upload a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha Portal, as well as a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the journey. They must also declare via the portal that they will quarantine at home for 14 days on arrival.

Travelers arriving from the UK or Middle East must fill in the same form, declaring their travel history of the past 14 days, and any connecting flights on arrival in India, as well as provide a negative PCR test. They will be segregated in-flight or while disembarking and must undergo a further PCR test on arrival at their own expense. They must stay at the airport until they get their results.

Transit passengers coming from these countries who test negative can catch their connecting flights, but must quarantine at home for seven days, and take a test at the end of the quarantine period.

What’s the Covid situation?

India has seen 11.8 million cases and 161,000 deaths, as of March 26. On the first anniversary of its initial lockdown, India recorded 50,000 new cases — a record since November. Maharashtra state — of which Mumbai is the capital — appears to be at the center of things, registering over 35,000 infections in one day. Delhi reported over 1,500 cases on March 25.

What can visitors expect?

India imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in March 2020, though restrictions have been eased as the months have gone on. Weddings and religious events are now allowed to take place, and domestic travel is allowed. However, different states are imposing different regulations. Maharashtra — where Mumbai is located — has announced an evening curfew from 28 March, though the timings have yet to be announced. Malls must close from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. It appears to

Holi takes place March 28, and celebrations are set to go ahead, although the authorities have warned celebrants to adhere to social distancing and asked for processions to be abandoned.

Christians have been asked to adhere to social distancing guidelines over the Easter celebrations, with a maximum of 50 people allowed in Maharashtra churches.

Useful links

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CNN’s Julia Buckley contributed to this report

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