WINGS & WHEELS | COVID-19 flight ban: When will flying be unhindered?

Written By: Sumit Chaturvedi
NEW DELHI Published: Jul 20, 2021, 12:49 PM(IST)

Air India flight Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Flying could become more relaxed by the end of this year for Indians who want to travel overseas, the acceptability at airports will depend on vaccinations. 

The world is opening quite fast after months of continuous lockdowns and travel bans. In the latest move, Canada has announced it will open its borders to fully vaccinated Americans next month after a nearly 17-month closure. 

But a question that is continuously striking the minds of Indian fliers, airlines and aviation sector employees is when will flying or travelling internationally be without any hassles? 

The answer to this question depends on a host of factors. Though trends emerge, flying could become more relaxed by the end of this year for Indians who want to travel overseas, the acceptability at airports will depend on vaccinations. 

Domestic flying in India is currently bound by some rules at different airports and between different cities where RTPCR and Corona negative tests are demanded, but flying internationally is currently allowed mostly with restrictions where some countries need vaccine certificates and RTPCR negative test reports, while many others haven't opened flying at all. 

Canada is the latest country that has also announced that it is extending the ban on incoming passenger flights from India for another month, while last week, Oman did so for fliers coming from India. 

In some good news for Indian travellers, France has announced it will now allow travellers from overseas who have had Covishield, AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine, into the country, while the United States has lowered its travel advisory for India from the highest level of 4 'do not travel' to level 3 'reconsider travel' as the COVID-19 cases in India have dropped significantly. 

There are around 17 European countries that currently allow Indian travellers to be vaccinated with Covishield, including Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Latvia, while Estonia is the only country that has approved both Covishield and Covaxin. 

Switzerland, which is not part of the 27-member bloc European Union, has allowed Covishield vaccinated Indians to enter its borders, but Italy and a few other European nations have not approved Covishield yet, and the Indian manufacturer of Covishield vaccine, Serum Institue of India (SII), claims it has not applied to these countries for approval. Experts predict it is only a matter of time before nations start recognising India's Covaxin, which is manufactured by Bharat Biotech. 

WHO approval for Covaxin is expected to come by August or September. India has already urged the European Union member states to recognise both Covishied and Covaxin in their list of vaccine passports and to accept the vaccination certificates issued through the CoWIN portal. 

Experts say as soon as both vaccines are recognised equally by countries and nations start allowing inbound flights, there could be relaxations seen in international travel, to and from India. 

Keeping that in mind, in the recently released economic relief measures, India will offer half a million tourist visas free of cost to inbound travellers. 

Recently, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India (NTAGI) has recommended during a meeting with the health ministry that passengers who have received both their doses can avoid quarantine and COVID-19 testing during inter-state travel. 

This shows more relaxation is coming back. Among other countries that require either Covishield vaccination or a negative RTPCR report or both, countries like Russia need a negative RTPCR plus Rapid test, Egypt needs a negative RTPCR report, while South Africa will allow entry if you have taken Covishield. 

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)

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