The United States on Saturday announced that it will begin restricting travel from India next week, in view of the worsening coronavirus situation and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the virus, CNN reported.

“On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the administration will restrict travel from India starting immediately,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India.”

Psaki said the policy would go into effect from May 4. The travel restrictions will not apply to citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States, their spouses or minor children or siblings, or to the parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents who are under 21, according to The New York Times.

The restrictions also do not apply to humanitarian workers, according to CNN.

On April 19, the US had advised its citizens to avoid travelling to India even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Ten days later, as the situation in India spiralled out of control, the country issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory, the highest, asking citizens “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so”.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who has family members still living in Delhi, on Friday said the people of the United States were worried about the situation in India.

“It is important to note, as I said earlier, that we have a responsibility as the United States in particular, as it relates to the people that we have partnered with over the years, to step up when people are in a time of need,” Harris added, according to CNN. “And as it relates to the people of India, we have long standing decades old relationship with India, with the Indian people, in particular around public health issues.”

She added that the US was sending supplies, including oxygen, to India, “with an expectation that will provide some level of relief”. On Friday, India received first deliveries of emergency supplies promised by the Joe Biden administration, with shipments of small oxygen cylinders, large oxygen cylinders, regulators, pulse oximeters and N95 masks.

Republicans oppose restrictions

Republican lawmakers criticised President Biden for imposing restrictions on travel from India. Restricting travel to our ally India while leaving our border open to Mexico is not rational, Congressman Tim Burchett said, according to PTI.

Another Republican lawmaker Jodey Arrington also criticised Biden for this proclamation on travel. “Biden enacting an India travel ban while keeping the border open is like locking your front door, but leaving the back door wide open, he said. “I wonder if the Left will accuse him of being xenophobic and anti-Hindu.”

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, however, supported the travel ban. “I support the Biden administration’s travel restrictions from India, which many in the Indian American community have called for,” he said. “But what we really need to do is prioritise lives over excess profits. Pfizer and Moderna need to licence their vaccine formulas.”