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US imposing restrictions on travel from India starting Tuesday: Harris

New York, May 1 (IANS) The US is imposing restrictions on travel from India starting on Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris has said.

“We have announced that starting Tuesday on the advice of the CDC (Centres for Disease Control, our COVID-19 experts, medical experts and national security advisors — travel restrictions will come into force for India,” she told reporters on Friday.

Harris, who was visiting Cincinnati, said, “There is no question that it (COVID surge in India) is a great tragedy, in terms of the loss of life, and as I have said before, and I will say again, we as a country have made a commitment to the people of India to support them.”

“And we’ve made already a commitment in terms of a dollar amount that will go to PPE (personal protective equipment) and a number of other things. But it is tragic. And, you know, my prayers go to the people on the suffering, the blatant suffering that is happening,” she added.

President Joe Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the restrictions were being imposed because “of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India.”

The White House and the CDC did not spell out the restrictions.

But travel restrictions issued by Biden on other countries given an idea of how they may impact India.

Non-US citizens except for US legal immigrants will not be allowed into the US if they have been to the countries under the restrictions in the past 14 days.

The restrictions cover South Africa, China, Iran, Brazil, Ireland, Britain and the 29 countries belonging to the common visa zone known as the Schengen Area.

US citizens and legal residents and their immediate family members are exempt from the restrictions, as also are diplomats, but they are advised to follow precautions.

They are asked to test themselves for COVID-19 between three and five days after arrival.

If those who are vaccinated test positive, they have to isolate themselves for seven days.

Those who are not vaccinated are asked to self-isolate for seven days, regardless of the test results.

At a news conference on Friday before the restriction was announced, White House Coronavirus Response Co-ordinator Jeffrey Zientsin said, “In terms of travel from India, we remain in very close contact with our foreign counterparts and are continuously monitoring the situation.”

“Our current inbound travel precautions and mandatory testing before travel — the quarantine for unvaccinated individuals and the retesting during that quarantine period — those are all in place for all international travel and have been effective,” he added.

Last year during the height of the pandemic flights to and from India a” like with most countries a” were banned.

Both countries organized evacuation flights to bring their stranded citizens home.

On Thursday, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that the Biden Administration was sending COVID relief aid worth $100 million.

Two planeloads of oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and N95 masks to protect frontline workers have already been sent to India.

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