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In late March, when India went into a coronavirus lockdown, the government suspended all international flight operations. Five months later, countries are cautiously opening up their borders to other countries with close geographic, economic or cultural ties to resuscitate a limping tourism industry. To that end, India, too, has entered into bilateral travel bubbles with seven countries: U.S.A., France, Germany, the U.K., Canada, and most recently, the U.A.E., and Maldives.
The Director-General for Civil Aviation announced that as per the arrangement with the U.S.A, U.K., Canada and the U.A.E. governments, any Indian national with a valid visa will be allowed to visit these countries. The exclusion of Germany and France indicates that the two countries are imposing stricter entry restrictions for Indians, and not all non-essential visa holders will be permitted.
Moreover, to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission, travellers must comply with regulations such as providing proof of having tested negative for COVID-19 on arrival, and mandatory quarantine or self-isolation in the destination country. For instance, passengers flying to the U.A.E. are required to produce a PCR negative test report for COVID-19, and fill out a health declaration form before departure and after arrival.
As per the most recent air travel bubble agreement with Maldives, travellers might have to undergo a random COVID-19 PCR test, and must wear face masks at airports, during travel within Maldives and in enclosed public spaces. However, unlike the other countries on the list, Indians can still obtain a visa on arrival in the Maldives.
Apart from national carrier Air India, private Indian airlines have also been allowed to operate commercial flights to and from these seven countries.
It is important to note that despite the bilateral air bubbles, all international travellers returning from abroad will have to undergo seven days of institutional quarantine, followed by seven days of home quarantine, after returning to India. The new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on August 2, 2020 state that the seven days of institutional quarantine can be substituted by home quarantine in case of an emergency.
International passengers arriving at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport at Mumbai can avoid institutional quarantine if they have taken a RT-PCR Covid-19 test and tested negative, as long as the test was conducted less than 96 hours before the journey.