Omicron: India Suspends International Flights till January 31

Amidst the fear of the new Omicron variant, the Indian government has extended the ban on the international passenger flights that were supposed to start from 15 December 2021. International flights from India have had been suspended from 23 March 2020 and were set to be lifted this December. However, the ban has been extended due to the growing threat of the new variant of concern.

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As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, these restrictions will not be applicable on international cargo operations and flights that have been approved by the regulator.

Given the global scenario and the emerging threat of the VOC, for now, the situation is being closely watched in consultation with the stakeholders. Nevertheless, air bubbles with various nations are still in place and will continue to operate. These special overseas passenger flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission and other bilateral arrangements since July 2020 under COVID-19 specific restrictions.

As of now, India has an air bubble pact with over 30 countries including the UK, the US, France, the UAE and Kenya. Other than these, some international scheduled flights may be allowed on a case to case basis on select routes. Detected a few weeks ago, Omicron is known to have spread to more than 50 countries resulting in several blanket bans and revised travel restrictions imposed by several countries.

The Indian government has released a list of 'at-risk' countries; arrivals from these countries will need to go through the revised screening procedure that includes post-arrival COVID-19 testing.

Some of these countries include China, Mauritius, Tanzania, Brazil, Botswana, New Zealand, Israel, Hong Kong and Ghana. Earlier today, Singapore was removed from the list of at-risk nations. However, uncertainty caused by this new variant has triggered panic while we await news of the resumption of these services which will be notified by the DGCA in due course.

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