India is on high alert as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country has escalated to 125 (as of 17 March 2020). The Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA) has been invoked, giving wide powers to the Ministry of Health and Welfare to enhance preparedness and containment of the virus. Various State Governments have also classified COVID-19 as an ‘epidemic disease’ under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 (EDA), giving local administration authority to impose various containment measures, such as quarantine, closures and surveillance. The Central and several State governments have been issuing numerous advisories and regulations on matters of travel, employment and healthcare.
In this constantly evolving space, it is important for Indian companies to find the right balance between business continuity and concerns over employees’ health and safety. To equip companies to better handle the situation, we have addressed below some frequently raised queries in relation to COVID-19.
Yes, India has quite comprehensively closed its borders, with only few exceptions. Effective 13 March 2020, all existing visas to India have been suspended till 15 April 2020, including for Overseas Citizens of India. Exceptions only relate to holders of employment, project and diplomatic visas.
Any foreigner wanting to travel to India now would need to apply for a consular visa and demonstrate compelling reasons for entry.
As per the Central government’s travel advisories till 16 March 2020, all incoming travellers including Indians who:
Given the varying use of verbiage in various advisories and FAQs, there is a risk that even transit through some of the above countries (in the first point) may result in quarantine being imposed. Further, absolute restrictions have been imposed on any travel from United Kingdom, Turkey, EU and countries of European Free Trade Association which is discussed later.
Incoming travellers from other countries too can be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. In fact, a previous travel advisory (10 March 2020) required all passengers having travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany to undergo self-imposed quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival (all countries mentioned here being referred to as Affected Countries).
Some State governments may also expand these requirements. For example, the Karnataka government, through a written order dated 13 March 2020, is widening quarantine requirements, requiring international travellers from any COVID-19 impacted country to self-isolate for 14 days if asymptomatic, and to undergo mandatory testing if symptomatic.
The regulations issued by several State Governments under the EDA further require individuals to mandatorily self-report to the nearest government hospital if they have travel history to a country or area where COVID-19 has been reported, and to self-isolate/home quarantine for 14/28 days.
The visas of foreign nationals who are already in India remain valid. They should however contact the nearest Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), for visa extension/conversion, or grant of consular service.
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