Air India flight 187 from New Delhi lands at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Friday. AFP
Gulf Today Report
More countries followed UAE in banning or restricting air travel from India in the wake of a record surge in coronavirus cases in the south Asian country,
Kuwait has suspended all flights from India until further notice, Bahrain has updated International arrival procedures for passengers from India.
Germany is sharply restricting travel from India and Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency has reported that the country’s civil aviation agency has banned all flights to and from India and Pakistan because of the dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.
Canada suspended flights from both India and Pakistan for 30 days, while the US State Department urged Americans to avoid travel to India, even if they are vaccinated.
A virus patient lays on a stretcher in a hospital complex as he waits for admission in New Delhi. AFP
As the clock ticked down to the shutdown of the air corridor between India and the UAE -- one of the world's busiest - fares soared as Indians who could afford it scrambled to escape the covid surge.
Price comparison websites showed one-way commercial flights from Mumbai to Dubai on Friday and Saturday costing as much as Rs80,000 ($1,000) - around 10 times the usual rate.
No tickets were on offer from Sunday when the 10-day flight suspension comes into force.
"In view of the health situation, it has been decided to suspend direct commercial air links with India until further notice," the Kuwaiti government tweeted late on Friday.
It said Kuwait residents would only be allowed to return to the emirate via third countries if they stopped over for at least 14 days.
Expatriate workers make up some 70 percent of Kuwait's population and include hundreds of thousands of Indians.
Bahrain's National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus has updated International arrival procedures for passengers above the age of 6 arriving through Bahrain International Airport from, or transiting through the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the People's Republic of Bangladesh, effective 27 April 2021.
All incoming passengers arriving from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh must provide proof of negative PCR test with a QR code conducted not more than 48 hours before departure.
All existing travel-related procedures remain in force. All returnees and visitors must undergo PCR testing upon arrival, and test again on their 5th and 10th day, activate the 'BeAware Bahrain' application and sign a self-isolation agreement, which requires passengers to quarantine at their place of residence until their arrival test results are available.
Germany will shut out all travellers arriving from India apart from its own citizens, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday, as a new variant has made the South Asian country the latest coronavirus hotspot.
"We're very worried about the new mutation of the virus discovered in India. So as not to endanger our vaccination programme, India travel has to be significantly limited," Spahn told the Funke newspaper group.
From Monday, only German citizens will be allowed to enter the country when arriving from India, he added.
A health worker takes a nasal swab sample to test for COVID-19 in Jammu on Saturday. AP
As Spahn plans to designate India a "virus variant zone," travellers will have to be tested before departure for Germany and immediately enter a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
Berlin had already dubbed India a "zone with particularly high risk of infection" with effect from Sunday.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency is reporting the country’s civil aviation agency has banned all flights to and from India and Pakistan because of the dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the two nations.
IRNA says the decision was made by Iran’s Health Ministry and it takes effect Saturday at midnight.
Mohammad Hassan Zibakhsh, spokesman for Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization noted there are no routine flights between Iran and India and "flights are operated occasionally.”
Zibakhsh said flights to and from 41 countries already were prohibited in Iran, while those who want to fly to other countries listed as high risk are required to have a coronavirus test in Iran.
Travellers over 8 years old need to submit a negative PCR test within 96 hours of departure and do another test on arrival.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said 18,230 new confirmed cases over 24 hours, bringing Iran's total on Saturday to more than 2,377,000.
"It is not just a mission that brought back stranded and distressed citizens from around the world, but Vande Bharat has been a mission of hope and happiness, of letting people know that they will not be left behind even in the most testing times," Puri said.
The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.
The ban does not include people in age groups ineligible to receive vaccinations. A previous directive banning the entry of non-Kuwaitis into the Gulf state still stands, the statement said.
A government body dealing with the pandemic said the monthlong travel restrictions would start from Saturday and aim to prevent the spread into the country of coronavirus strains from other countries which are believed to be more contagious.
The Dubai Court of Appeal upheld the verdict issued by the Court of First Instance, imprisoned an African convict for 10 years and fined him Dhs50,000 for bringing 6,250 kilogrammes of cocaine in his bag.
The airline took to the decision due to spike in coronavirus cases in Asian countries and the emergence of Delta variant.
Dubai Police arrested a European gang in less than 10 hours after they robbed a car showroom and stole jewellery and watches worth Dhs13 million.