The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday issued the Standard Operating Protocol, or SOP, for international travel on non-scheduled commercial flights under the Vande Bharat Mission and air transport bubble arrangements, the Hindustan Times reported. India had banned international flight travel in March, in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The SOP said that people who want to travel to India on Vande Bharat Mission flights should register themselves with the Indian missions in the country where they are residing, along with other details required by the Ministry of External Affairs. However, people traveling to India on flights operating under air bubble arrangements need not register.
Since July, India has established air bubbles with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives. The government is negotiating such arrangements with 13 more countries – Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. The Vande Bharat Mission began on May 6 and is currently in its fifth phase.
The SOP said those in distress, including workers who have been laid off, short-term visa holders whose visas are about to expire, persons with medical emergency, pregnant women, elderly individuals or those who wish to return to India due to death of family members, and students will be given priority on the flights. But all travelers coming to India will have to give an undertaking that they are traveling at their own risk.
The Ministry of External Affairs will prepare a database of all travelers, including details such as name, age, gender, mobile number, place of residence, final destination and information on coronavirus tests taken and their results. “This database will be shared by MEA with the respective state/Union Territory in advance [where the passenger is heading],” the SOP added.
Those who want to fly out of India will have to apply to the Ministry of Civil Aviation or an agency designated by the ministry, along with details such as the places of departure and arrival, the SOP said.
India has so far reported 29,75,701 cases of the coronavirus, as well as 55,794 deaths. India has 6,97,330 active cases while over 22 lakh people have recovered from the infection.