Govt suspends air travel from China, declares all visas ‘invalid’


New Delhi, Feb 4, 2020 (IANS):

The government on Tuesday banned all India-bound airlines from boarding any passengers from China and cancelled all existing Indian visas, in view of the rapid spread of novel coronavirus outbreak which originated in Wuhan.

As of Tuesday, 425 people have died due to the outbreak and more than 20,000 people were tested positive for the virus in China.

Three people who returned to Kerala from China have been diagnosed with the coronavirus pneumonia.

In a letter issued by the Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Kolkata, the government said: "All airlines are informed not to take on board any passenger from China, including Chinese or other foreign nationals who may be holding valid (electronic travel authority) ETA/e-visa to board their aircraft for any destination in India."

The implementation of the order "starts with immediate effect and shall remain in force till further notice", the letter said.

The notice was signed by the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, Kolkata.

The embassy also announced that "existing visas (both regular and e-visas) are no longer valid" and has asked applicants in China to apply afresh.

All those who are already in India with regular or e-visa and had travelled from China after January 15, have been asked to contact the hotline number of the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The decision came two days after around 650 Indians who had signed consent forms for evacuation by the government were brought back from China. All of them are undergoing a 14-day quarantine process in Delhi at the moment.

The Indian embassy in Beijing following the evacuation had suspended travel to India on e-visas from China and declared e-visas issued in China, "invalid".

However, the embassy has asked Indian citizens or travellers in China to contact them in Beijing or consulates and Indian visa application centres in Shanghai and Guangzhou in case there is a "compelling reason" to visit India.