India will lift its embargo on commercial international flights at the end of the month, just over two years after its initial ban.
The central government announced the change on March 8 via a statement from the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The scheduled international flights will resume on March 27. International travelers will still have to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols released last month by the Ministry of Health.
“After having recognized the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India from 27.03.2022, i.e. start of Summer Schedule 2022,” said the statement per Jargran English.
India suspended international flights on March 23, 2020 following the global outbreak of COVID-19. In July of 2020, the government permitted limited air travel between India and 37 countries as part of an air bubble arrangement.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation extended the suspension of international commercial flights on Feb. 28 and did not say when the pause would be lifted.
The government began reissuing tourist visas in November after a two-year hiatus.
“In 2020, around 6.33 million international tourists and non-resident Indians arrived in India, down from about 18 million in 2019,” reported Gulf News. “Last year, the government announced that 500,000 free visas would be issued for international [travelers] before March 2022.”
Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, the director of transport and logistics CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory, told BusinessToday.In that the announcement was positive news for the nation’s tourism and hospitality industry.
“This is a welcome move and comes up at a time when leisure and holiday travel is reviving. Also, this will help the airlines to sweat their assets by plying on lucrative international routes,” Padmanabhan said.
Padmanabhan added that the change “gives directional confidence to all sectors and stakeholders about things returning to normalcy.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently classifies India as a Level 3 Travel Health advisory. Those traveling to the country are required to submit to COVID-19 testing beforehand, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC recommends unvaccinated people quarantine for five days upon their return.
“U.S. citizens who must travel to India are strongly urged to get fully vaccinated and get a booster shot before travel and should take additional personal health safety measures to protect themselves, including practicing social or physical distancing, cleaning hands with soap/hand sanitizer, wearing well-fitted masks, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation,” the U.S. Embassy in India said in an online statement.
The Embassy also noted that “services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and medical supply stores are still generally open throughout India, but restrictions on shopping malls have been imposed in some regions with increasing cases.”
The World Health Organization reports there have been just over 43,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last week.