Even as European countries are witnessing enhanced COVID restrictions and in some cases even lockdown – not to omit the travel curbs on incoming travellers from Southern Africa -- India has decided, in its wisdom, to resume scheduled international flights from December 15.
The flights have been suspended in India since March 23 last year due to the pandemic. In the interim, since July last year, special international passenger flights have been operating under air bubble arrangements with approximately 28 countries.
‘‘In an order, the Civil Aviation Ministry stated: "The matter of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India has been examined in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and it has been decided that scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India may be resumed from December 15, 2021."
Fourteen countries, designated by the Union health Ministry as ‘at risk’ and with whom there is an existing 'air bubble' agreement, would be allowed to resume 75 per cent of pre-Covid operations (or a minimum of seven frequencies per week). These 14 countries are United Kingdom, Singapore, China, Brazil, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and New Zealand. The list also includes South Africa, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong - countries that have confirmed cases of the Covid variant.
Countries designated as 'at risk' but without 'air bubble' agreements with India would be allowed to resume 50 per cent of bilateral capacity entitlements, the Aviation Ministry said.
But these apart, scheduled international passenger flights between India and other countries can return to normal. The decision came on a day Germany and Italy joined Britain in banning most travel from South Africa. The European Union, too, has separately proposed prohibiting travel from southern Africa.
Last week Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said the government was evaluating the process of normalising international flight operations. But he also said the government will take measures to guard against a renewed wave of infections, particularly since several European nations have seen surges.