On Wednesday (May 12), the European Commission called on its 27 member-states to temporarily stop non-essential travel from India to help curb the spread of a COVID-19 variant.
In a statement, the European Union's executive said that their proposal was in line with the World Health Organisation's proposal on Monday (May 10) that plans to reclassify the B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 found in India as a "variant of concern", which raises the alert from its previous status of "variant of interest". And because of this, the EU countries should apply an "emergency brake" on travel from India.
"It is important to limit to the strict minimum the categories of travellers that can travel from India for essential reasons and subject those who may still travel from India to rigorous testing and quarantine arrangements," added the Commission's statement.
In the previous week, the European Union's executive recommended countries of the bloc to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions while keeping the option to restrict travel from other countries whenever the health situation deteriorates severely. As per the current travel guidelines made this proposal to help boost the wrecked tourism industry of the EU. As per the current guidelines, people from only seven countries were allowed to enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
All proposals since last week, including the bid to halt non-essential travel from India, still require approval from 27 member-states before adoption. But, the member-states can individually choose to ban non-essential travel from India.
On Wednesday, India had the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began after the death toll of India rose to 250,000. Currently, India has around 24,046,809 active cases with 262,350 deaths. Many experts worldwide have also raised concerns about the variant first identified that could be highly transmissible. But, several studies claim that the Indian vaccines Covaxin and Covishield seems to be effective against the double mutant and is neutralising the new strain.
In the proposal, the European Commissions suggested that limited exemptions would be applied for its halt to travel from India, including people travelling for "imperative family reasons." or are EU citizens and long term residents. The proposal also mentioned that on arrival to the EU, these travellers would have to go through additional health measures such as strict testing or quarantine on arrival in the EU.
This is not the first temporary travel ban on India. Due to the COVID-19 surge, multiple countries have announced temporary travel bans on India's flights, including UAE, Hong Kong, Canada, UK, Indonesia, Iran, etc. On the other hand, some countries like the US and Singapore have announced travel advisory and restrictions for people who have travelled from India. In some countries like Bahrain and Maldives, travellers from India must carry negative RT-PCR test from an ICMR accredited lab.