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EU calls for India travel ban


The European Union’s executive has called on countries of the bloc to temporarily halt non-essential travel from India in a bid to limit the spread of a coronavirus variant.

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The European Commission said its proposal followed the World Health Organisation’s decision on Monday to reclassify the B.1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 first detected in India as a “variant of concern,” raising the alert from a “variant of interest”.

EU countries should apply an “emergency brake” on non-essential travel from India, it said in a statement.

“It is important to limit to the strict minimum the categories of travellers that can travel from India for essential reasons and to subject those who may still travel from India to strict testing and quarantine arrangements,” it added.

Last week the Commission proposed that the EU’s 27 member states ease COVID-19 travel restrictions from June to allow foreign travellers from more countries to enter the bloc while keeping the option to quickly restrict travel from countries where the health situation deteriorates sharply.

The member states have not yet adopted this recommendation but could individually opt to ban non-essential travel from India before it is adopted.

India’s coronavirus death toll crossed 250,000 on Wednesday in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began and experts around the world have expressed concern the variant first identified there may be highly transmissible.

The European Commission said limited exemptions should apply to its proposed halt to travel from India, including to those travelling for “imperative family reasons” or EU citizens and long-term residents.

Those travellers should face additional health measures on arrival in the EU, such as strict testing or quarantine requirements, it said.

Australia’s controversial travel ban with India, which floated jail terms of up to five years for travellers trying to return from the COVID-ravaged country, is set to expire on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged he anticipates at least three repatriation flights from India to arrive before the end of the month.



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