India Moves to Close Borders, Will Block Arrival of All International Flights From Sunday to Stop Coronavirus Spread
Image for representation. (Reuters)
New Delhi: The central government is moving to harden India’s borders and will implement a new travel ban with effect from March 22, banning the arrival of all international flights for a week starting Sunday.
India’s decision to stop international flights and isolate itself from overseas visitors follows similar decisions taken by governments in Australia and New Zealand to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
The government had earlier already banned flights from several high-risk nations, including those from the European Union, till March 31.
Covid-19, which has infected over 2 lakh people across the globe and led to the deaths of over 9,000, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The decision to ban all flights was announced soon after the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported that a patient died of the virus in Punjab on Thursday, making it the fourth death in the country. The total number of cases reported so far is 173.
According to sources, the total flight ban was suggested to the government by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Among the other containment measures announced is an advisory to all citizens above 65 and children below 10 years of age to remain at home.
The government has also asked the railways and the civil aviation ministries to suspend all concessional travel, except for students, patients and for persons belonging to the Divyang category, to dissuade travel and encourage social distancing.
States have also been told to advise private companies to enforce work-from-home policies for employees to stop the spread of the highly contagious virus. Several states have already introduced strict containment measures, including suspending exams, shutting down schools, colleges, malls, movie theatres, gyms, spas and restaurants.
The central government has also instituted a work-from-home policy for its employees. According to an order issued by the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions on Thursday, heads of department (HoDs) have been asked to ensure that 50% of Group B and C employees are required to attend office every day, and the remaining 50% staff should be instructed to work from home.