Coronavirus update: Can Centre’s travel restrictions on nations stop Indians from returning home?

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The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday evening, without mentioning whether Indians are included in this list, issued a circular on the new set of travel restrictions India has imposed following the coronavirus outbreak.

“Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from 18th March 2020,” the circular read. On Tuesday, the Centre also further announced that it had prohibited the travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia to India till March 31.

This has put a number of Indians abroad in a fix. Bengaluru resident Jasmine Karl, who is currently in Greece with her husband, told Free Press Journal that they had to cut their holiday by five days following the government advisory. We had tried rescheduling our tickets way in advance, even before the advisory was issued, but we never got help from both MakeMyTrip.com or Emirates,” she said.

Jasmine added that their return ticket cost them Rs 1.10 lakh, but Emirates cancelled their return ticket a few days earlier after coronavirus pandemic continued spreading. “We then had to spend Rs 1.10 lakh for a one-day ticket from Athens to Bengaluru. Emirates has not informed us about the refund policy yet,” she added.

The government had earlier suspended all visas, barring a few categories such as diplomatic and employment, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

After a Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting, the government proposed a set of social-distancing measures to be in force till March 31, the officials told reporters.

“Travel of passengers from the member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from March 18,” Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Aggarwal said.

“No airline shall board a passenger from these countries to India with effect from 1200 GMT on March 18. The airlines shall enforce this at the port of initial departure,” he added.

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