03/12/2020, 14.57
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India suspends all tourist visas, reports 73 coronavirus cases

People arriving from eight countries affected by the virus must be quarantined. Covid-19 is a now classified as a pandemic. No union-wide measures have been taken. Schools are closed in Kerala but exams will go ahead in Maharashtra. At least 2,000 people under observation in southern cities. Economic growth expected to drop to 5.3 per cent.


New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Indian government has decided to suspend all tourist visas until 15 April. Indians returning from eight countries affected by the coronavirus China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, Spain, Germany and France – will be placed under quarantine.

These decisions follow the announcement by the World Health Organisation that the Covid-19 outbreak constitutes a "pandemic". Meanwhile, India’s coronavirus count has reached 73.

The new visa provision will come into effect tomorrow at 5:30 am Indian Standard Time. Certain exceptions apply, namely diplomats, employees of the United Nations or international organisations, and people working on development projects.

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan has urged all Indians to refrain from travelling to another country for any non-essential businesses.

The decisions were taken after a meeting chaired by Mr Vardhan that also included senior ministers like Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

The purpose of the suspension is to prevent the virus from spreading across the country, which has a population of 1.3 billion people.

However, Indian authorities have not yet adopted measures that apply to the entire country. At present, each state in responsible for emergency management.

Kerala is the most affected state with 14 cases, including the grandparents, aged 85 and 90, of a man who travelled from Italy.

Yesterday, the authorities in Kochi quarantined 42 people coming from Italy. Another 2,000 are under observation, 300 in hospital.

State Health Minister K Shailaja has ordered the cancellation of all public events and the closure of schools, calling for strict community surveillance and urging people to avoid contact with others.

In Maharashtra, six people are the latest to be hospitalised. The state’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is urging people not to panic and those returning to India after a trip to go into self-isolation at home.

Nevertheless, “Board exams are on,” he said, “so the schools are functional at the moment, but, if there’s a need the State will issue a holiday.”

According to experts, these restrictive measures will negatively impact the Indian economy, which relies on tourism.

Two days ago, Moody’s said that growth in 2020 is expected to drop to 5.3 per cent. Civil aviation authorities have reported that the number of passengers landing in India is down from 70,000 to 62,000 a day and should fall to 40,000 with the latest travel ban.

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