India began allowing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country on Monday, marking the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as infections decline and vaccination rates improve.

According to the health ministry, tourists entering India must be fully vaccinated, follow all COVID-19 protocols, and test negative for the virus within 72 hours prior to their flight departure. Many will also be required to take a COVID-19 post-arrival test at the airport.

Travelers from countries that have signed agreements with India for mutual acceptance of vaccination certificates, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and several European countries, are not required to take the on arrival COVID-19 test.

In an attempt to prevent the pandemic, India implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in March 2020. Apart from last month, when fully vaccinated passengers were allowed to enter on chartered flights, this is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists to enter on air bubble flights since the lockdown.

It comes as daily new cases of coronavirus have been hovering slightly above 10,000 for almost a month, indicating a considerable drop in infections.

The government aims to offer 500,000 free visas until March of next year to encourage tourists to visit India. The initiatives are expected to help the tourism and hospitality industries recover from the pandemic’s effects.

India is the second-worst-affected country after the United States, with more than 35 million coronavirus infections recorded. According to the health ministry, active coronavirus cases have dropped to 134,096, the lowest in 17 months.

Nearly 79 percent of India’s adult population has received at least one vaccine shot, with 38 percent having received both doses. To speed up the vaccination campaign, the federal government has asked state governments to conduct door-to-door campaigns.

In 2020, fewer than 3 million international tourists visited India, a decrease of more than 75% from 2019, when tourism generated about $30 billion in revenue.

– India’s new age travel digital media


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