The US on Tuesday lowered its travel advisory for India from the highest Level 4 (meaning no travel) to Level 3 which urges citizens to reconsider such plans.
Here's why the US made this change and what the travel situation is like with India and other countries:
Why the recommendation changed: The United States' travel advisory comes as India recorded just 30,093 new coronavirus infections, its lowest in 125 days, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,11,74,322, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.
When last month's advisory was issued, India was struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported and hospitals in many parts of the country were reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
The US also eased travel recommendations on Pakistan from Level 4 to Level 3.
The improvement of the travel advisories for India and Pakistan by the state department on Monday comes in an acknowledgment of the improving COVID-19 pandemic situation in the region. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for India due to COVID-19, indicating a high level of COVID-19 in the country, the state department said on Monday.
What the US said: "Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorised vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC's specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers," it said. "Reconsider travel to India due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism."
Meanwhile, Canada on Monday announced that it is extending its ban on direct passenger flights from India for another month due to the Delta variant of COVID-19. The ban, which was imposed on 22 April when India was witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, was set to expire on 21 July, but will now remain in place until 21 August, Global News Ca reported.
This is the fourth time the ban has been extended. This comes even as the country announced on Monday that fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents who want to come to Canada for non-essential reasons can do so starting on 9 August.
Why the ban was extended: Transport minister Omar Alghabra told reporters during a news conference that the reason for the extension was due to the Delta variant, which is considered the dominant strain of COVID-19 worldwide.
What Canada said: "While progress is being made, the situation in India is still very serious," he said. "The decision is based on the advice received from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and will best protect Canadians from an increased introduction of the Delta variant, which is prevalent in India."
But there's a loophole. Indian travellers can enter Canada via an 'indirect route'. As per the revised travel advisory, Canada will not accept the COVID-19 molecular test report from India. Which means travellers must get themselves tested for the coronavirus in a ‘third country’ before they continue their journey to Canada.
“This proof must be obtained in a third country before Indian travelers continue their journey to Canada. You might need to seek entry and stay in a third country for at least 14 days,” the advisory read.
When it comes to Germany, India is in good company with the country's health agency lifting its ban on travellers from five countries hit by the Delta strain COVID-19 (the others being UK, Russia, Nepal, and Portugal). Germany has also reclassified India under the "high-incidence areas" from "virus variant countries" which makes it easier for travellers who are not German residents or citizens.
Germany had introduced the "virus variant country" travel category to prevent the entry of the Delta coronavirus variant.
While the UK is busy celebrating its 'freedom day', setting aside the fact that just days ago it reported more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time since January, border controls are slated to continue. While Boris Johnson has vowed to work with the tourism ministry, the fact remains that the UK has made no change to its 'red list' (on which India was placed on 23 April). Essentially, what it means is Indian citizens cannot travel to the UK and makes mandatory a 10-day hotel quarantine for UK residents arriving home.
The UK instituted this ban just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had cancelled his scheduled trip to India.
In what comes as good news for Indian travellers, France on Saturday lifted travel restrictions for those that have been fully vaccinated (including those that have been inoculated with Covishield). At the same time, France is tightening border checks to control the spread of the delta variant and protect hospitals, according to a statement from the prime minister Saturday.
The move to accept visitors vaccinated with AstraZeneca's vaccine made by India's Serum Institute came after a global outcry over the fact that the European Union's COVID-19 certificate only recognises AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Europe.
Air travel between India and Italy remains banned, much to the chagrin of many students who remain stranded there. While there seems to be no end in sight for such a travel ban being lifted, the Indian Ambassador to Italy had on 9 July in a meeting briefed community representatives on efforts seeking relaxations.
Italy had on June 26 permitted Italian residents or Italian citizens with Registry of Resident Italians Abroad, to travel to the country from India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Oman had last month suspended passenger flights from 24 countries including India, UK, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil.
With inputs from agencies