This image has been used for illustrative purpose.
India on Wednesday suspended all tourist visas until April 15 and said it would quarantine travellers arriving from seven virus-hit countries as it attempts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The move comes as the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, and as countries worldwide scramble to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
India's visa suspension begins March 13 at 1200 GMT at the port of departure, the government's Press Information Bureau said.
Diplomatic visas and visas for international organizations, employment and projects are exempt.
While the majority of COVID-19 cases have been in China -- which shares a border with India -- the number of new infections has steadied there. Hotspots however have emerged in Italy, Iran and Spain.
All travellers, including Indian nationals, "arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after February 15 will be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days," the statement read.
The number of COVID-19 cases in India -- which has a population of 1.3 billion -- has doubled to 60 in the past four days, increasing public fear and the government's state of alert.
The visa decision was reached following a meeting of ministers led by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, the statement read.
The government also "strongly advised" Indians against non-essential foreign travel, warning that they can be subjected "to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days."
Visa-free travel granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders -- some three million people, not nationals but from ethnic Indian families living abroad -- was put on hold until April 15.
And land border traffic will be funnelled through "designated check points with robust screening facilities."
Foreign nationals who plan to travel to India "for compelling reasons" can contact their nearest Indian mission, the statement said.
Separately, India's Bureau of Immigration said that all visas and e-visas granted to French, German and Spanish nationals before Wednesday "and who have not yet entered India stand suspended with immediate effect."
And Italian, Iranian, South Korean and Japanese nationals who have visas issued before March 3 "who have not yet entered India remain suspended."
Visas granted to Chinese nationals before February 5 also continue to be suspended, the statement read.
Foreigners already in India with valid visas are unaffected by the new requirements.
After the visa announcement, national carrier Air India said it was temporarily suspending flight services to Rome, Milan and Seoul, the Press Trust of India reported.
However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the regulator on a case-to-case basis.
The Indian festival Diwali, which is also called the festival of lights, is celebrated in full swing all around the country, even amid the on-going coronavirus restrictions.
Ambassador Kapoor said on Twitter, “Distressed to learn of this accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers and their families.”
India's star tourist attraction, the 17th-century monument of love, the Taj Mahal, and the Agra Fort, are all set to reopen from Monday, after an unprecedented closure of six months, due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Police sources said a bus carrying ITBP personnel back after completion of their Amarnath Yatra duties met with an accident in the Chandanwari area of Pahalgam tehsil.
Instantly, the patrols and the National Ambulance were dispatched to the reported location from which the child was transferred to Al Qasimi Hospital, where he was declared dead in the hospital at 7pm on the same day.
"Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts," the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing. Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.