India will reopen to tourists from October 15 after being closed for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government said.
The country had suspended all visas for foreigners since March 2020, when the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a severe blockade.
“After considering various data, the MHA (interior ministry) has decided to start issuing new Tourist Visas for foreigners coming to India from October 15, 2021,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
Earlier this year the country of 1.3 billion people was hit by a severe wave of coronavirus infections, with about 400,000 cases and 4,000 deaths every day.
Hospitals were overcrowded after more than 200,000 people died in a period of about 10 weeks, according to official figures widely seen as an understatement.
The increase was blamed on new variants of the virus and the government had lifted restrictions very quickly and allowed sporting events and major celebrations like religious festivals to take place.
But cases in the country have since slowed significantly to about 20,000 new daily infections and 200 to 300 deaths in recent weeks.
More than 250 million people have been vaccinated, though that equates to only about 20 per cent of the population, and experts warn that India could suffer another wave of infections.
The Indian economy suffered one of the sharpest declines among major economies as a result of the pandemic, with output experiencing its worst decline since independence, leaving millions of people back in poverty.
The initial blockade last March in particular was a disaster, leaving tens of millions of workers in the informal economy jobless almost overnight.
Tourism is an important sector for Asia’s third largest economy, with 10.93 million tourists arriving in 2019, according to the government.
Since last March the restrictions on most categories of foreign visas such as diplomats and businessmen have been gradually lifted, but tourists remained banned even when most economic activities have resumed.
The interior ministry said it had “received representations” from state governments and various actors in the tourism industry to allow tourists to return.
The ministry stressed that all Covid-19 protocols “must be respected by foreign tourists, carriers bringing them to India and all other actors at landing stations”.
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