India reopens for foreign tourists as virus infections ebb

AP International

FILE – In this Sunday, March 24, 2019, file photo, tourists visit the Taj Mahal monument, in Agra, India. India reopened to fully vaccinated foreign tourists traveling on chartered flights on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers decline. Foreign tourists on regular flights will be able to enter India starting Nov. 15. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI (AP) — India reopened to fully vaccinated foreign tourists traveling on chartered flights on Friday in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers decline.

Foreign tourists on regular flights will be able to enter India starting Nov. 15.

It is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists to enter the country since March 2020 when it imposed its first nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

It is unclear whether arriving tourists will have to quarantine but they must be fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight.

The decision, announced earlier this month by India’s home ministry, comes as the country’s daily infections have dropped below 20,000 from a peak of 400,000 in May and more people have been vaccinated.

India has administered more than 970 million vaccine doses. Nearly 70% of the eligible adult population has had at least one dose.

The easing of restrictions on foreign tourists visiting the country, however, coincides with India’s domestic tourist and festive season. Already, it has prompted concerns by health officials who have warned against complacency.

Earlier this month, the Indian Council of Medical Research, India’s premier medical body, cautioned that “revenge tourism” could lead to a surge in COVID-19 infections if tourists don’t strictly adhere to safety protocols.

According to official data, less than 3 million foreign tourists visited India in 2020, which was a dip of more than 75% as compared to 2019.

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