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Coronavirus: India opens doors to foreign tourists for vaccinations after 18 months

NEW DELHI – India began allowing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country on regular commercial flights on Monday, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as Infections decreased and vaccination increased.

According to the Ministry of Health, travelers entering India must be fully vaccinated, follow all COVID-19 protocols and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight. Many people will also have to undergo a COVID-19 test after arriving at the airport.

However, travelers from countries that have an agreement with India for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, such as the US, UK and many European countries, can leave the airport without going through COVID-19 test.

It is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists on commercial flights to enter the country since March 2020, when it imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world to prevent epidemic. Fully vaccinated travelers on charter flights have been allowed entry starting last month.

It comes as coronavirus cases have dropped dramatically, with the number of daily new cases just above 10,000 for more than a month.

To encourage tourists to visit India, the government plans to grant 500,000 visas free of charge until the end of next March. The moves are expected to boost the tourism and hospitality sectors, which have been ravaged by the pandemic.

With more than 35 million reported coronavirus infections, India is the second hardest hit country after the number of coronavirus infections in the US at 134,096, the lowest level in 17 months, according to the Ministry of Health.

Nearly 79% of India’s adult population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine while 38% is fully immunized. The federal government has asked state governments to conduct door-to-door campaigns to accelerate the vaccine campaign.

Fewer than 3 million foreign tourists will visit India in 2020, down more than 75% from 2019, when tourism brought in nearly US$30 billion in income.

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