U.S. Will Restrict Travel From India Starting Tuesday – The Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration will restrict travel from India beginning Tuesday, the White House said Friday, as concerns mount over a record surge in coronavirus cases there.

“On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the administration will restrict travel from India,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India.”

The White House said the ban on travel from India wouldn’t apply to U.S. citizens, permanent residents or their spouses. Other individuals that might qualify for exemptions include humanitarian workers, certain journalists and academics and students commencing studies in the fall, according to a determination by the State Department for travelers deemed to be in U.S. national interests. The exceptions mirror those for other countries affected by pandemic-related travel restrictions.

A spokesman for the Indian Embassy had no immediate comment.

The announcement comes as India set a global record for new infections, prompting several countries to impose similar travel restrictions. The U.K., Canada, Germany, France and Australia were among the growing list of countries to ban most travelers from India in recent weeks.

India reported another world record of 386,452 new daily infections on Friday, bringing the country’s total number of cases to more than 18 million. The death toll stood at 208,330 as of Friday, but public health experts believe total fatalities to be undercounted.

President Biden is taking the advice of health authorities to curb visits from India to the U.S.

Photo: evelyn hockstein/Reuters

The U.S. and other governments have ramped up humanitarian assistance to India amid the crisis, which has overwhelmed the country’s hospitals and led to many people dying on the pavement waiting to be seen. India has also experienced a massive shortage in oxygen and related supplies, and the government is struggling to vaccinate people amid the surge.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the first person of Indian descent to serve in the role, told reporters Friday the wave in India was “a great tragedy.”

“We as a country have made a commitment to the people of India to support them,” Ms. Harris said. “But it is tragic.”

The State Department said Friday it would send one of its most senior diplomats to India. Daniel Smith, who served as acting secretary of state in January before Antony Blinken was confirmed, will serve as interim chargé d’affaires in India. The move “underscores U.S. commitment to working with India to advance our shared priorities, including the well-being of the Indian and American people during the pandemic crisis,” department spokesman Ned Price said.

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The Biden administration initially drew criticism for being slow to respond to the situation, but has since announced more than $100 million in emergency relief.

Ms. Psaki said two U.S. military assistance flights carrying supplies had landed in India on Friday. The initial shipments included hundreds of oxygen cylinders, regulators and pulse oximeters, roughly 184,000 rapid diagnostic tests and approximately 84,000 N95 masks, she said.

The overall U.S. aid package announced by the White House this week includes 15 million N95 masks, 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, thousands of oxygen-related supplies, therapeutics and materials to manufacture more vaccines.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Air India are the only two airlines currently offering nonstop flights between the U.S. and India.

United’s four daily round-trip flights have been fairly full recently, according to people familiar with the matter. A United airline spokesman said in a statement that it will comply with the new restrictions.

“The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority and we will comply with all government regulations and travel orders,” United said. “United is proud of the essential air service we provide to connect our two countries and we’ll continue to support India during this time of need.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. has also banned most travelers from the U.K., the European Union, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, China and Iran.

The U.S. and other countries are stepping in to help as India’s new coronavirus cases continue to set daily records. The crisis there highlights how one country’s surge could have ripple effects in the global battle against the pandemic. Photo: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Write to Sabrina Siddiqui at Sabrina.Siddiqui@wsj.com

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U.S. Will Restrict Travel From India Starting Tuesday – The Wall Street Journal

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