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India is reopening its borders to international visitors

October 22, 2020 07:01 PM

New Delhi, October 22, 2020
India is reopening its borders to international visitors in a bid to revive economic growth even as the South Asian nation battles the world's second-worst coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is using a dip in new Covid-19 infections to prise open the economy from a strict lockdown, welcoming foreigners on business trips, but not tourists.

While regular scheduled commercial flights remain off limits for the time being, overseas travelers can use other options, including flights under a government repatriation program, air-bubble agreements, and private charters, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement Thursday. Ships will also be permitted. All travelers must "strictly adhere" to the guidelines on quarantine and other rules.

The surprise decision comes after the number of daily infections in India dropped to around 55, 000 versus almost 100, 000 last month. A government panel of scientists said this week the nation may have seen a peak in new infections and could contain the outbreak by February. But critics have attributed that decline to lower rates of testing as the disease spreads to the country's vast hinterland.

All existing visas -- except electronic, tourist and medical ones -- will be restored immediately, the government said. People holding expired visas can apply again and foreigners wishing to visit for business, conferences, work, study, research or medical reasons will be allowed to apply, the government said.

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