India opens to vaccinate foreign tourists after 18 months

India opens to vaccinate foreign tourists after 18 months

New Delhi India began allowing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country on regular commercial flights on Monday, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as infections drop and vaccinations increase.

Tourists entering India must be fully vaccinated, follow all COVID-19 protocols and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their trip, according to the Ministry of Health. Many will also need to get tested for COVID-19 after arriving at the airport.

However, travelers from countries that have agreements with India for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and several European countries, can leave the airport without undergoing a COVID-19 test.

This is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists on commercial flights to enter the country since March 2020, when it imposed one of the world’s toughest lockdowns in a bid to contain the pandemic. Fully vaccinated tourists on chartered flights were allowed entry starting last month.

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It comes as coronavirus infections have fallen dramatically, with daily new cases hovering just above 10,000 for more than a month.

To encourage travelers to visit India, the government plans to issue 500,000 free visas until next March. These steps are expected to boost the tourism and hospitality sector, which has been hit by the pandemic.

With more than 35 million coronavirus infections reported, India is the second hardest-hit country after active coronavirus cases in the United States at 134,096, the lowest level in 17 months, according to the Ministry of Health.

Approximately 79% of the adult population in India has received at least one dose of vaccine while 38% have been fully vaccinated. The federal government has asked state administrations to conduct door-to-door campaigns to speed up the vaccine campaign.

Fewer than 3 million foreign tourists visited India in 2020, down more than 75% from 2019, when tourism brought in nearly $30 billion in profits.

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