US to restrict travel from India effective May 4
Biden administration to limit travel from India as country grapples with massive skyrocket coronavirus case, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.
The policy will take effect on Tuesday, May 4, Psaki said in a statement. The administration made the decision on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.
As Covid infections and deaths have declined in the United States as millions of Americans get vaccinated every day, India is in the throes of an unprecedented spike in cases.
People wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) carry the body of a person who died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during a mass cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, April 26, 2021.
Adnan Abidi | Reuters
India reported record daily Covid deaths on Wednesday and Thursday. The country averages around 3,050 Covid deaths per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, although media reports say the official figure is underestimated.
India has reported an average of around 357,000 new cases per day over the past seven days, about 26% more than a week ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
The country is struggling with a highly contagious variant of Covid, known as B.1.617, which was first spotted there. The variant, which contains two key mutations that have been found separately in other strains of coronavirus, is believed by some to be behind the latest wave of infections.
The variant has since been identified in other countries, including the United States.
A patient wearing an oxygen mask is transported inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India on April 26, 2021.
Amit Dave | Reuters
There are few non-stop flights between the United States and India. United Airlines is the only major US carrier operating a non-stop service between the two countries, with four daily departures to India. Air India has a similar number slated for next month, according to aviation data firm Cirium.
The new travel ordinance is not expected to ban flights, but rather non-US citizens or permanent residents who have recently stayed in India – a format similar to the restrictions that have been placed on many travel from the EU, from China and Brazil, according to a person familiar with the subject.
“If we are to do this, we have to be clear about what we are aiming to accomplish,” former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said of the new “Closing Bell” travel restrictions. from CNBC.
“Most of the data shows that they have negligible impact on the transmission of the virus and the introduction of the virus into the United States,” Gottlieb said.
“I can assure you that the variants that we see circulating in India, including the new 617 variant, are already here in the United States,” he said.
U.S. Army personnel prepare to unload U.S. coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief supplies at the cargo terminal at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, April 30 2021.
Prakash Singh | Reuters
The Biden administration, faced with bipartisan appeals to help India tackle the dizzying health crisis, announced this week that the United States is sending the country over $ 100 million in Covid supplies, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests.
But lawmakers are still stepping up the pressure on the president Joe biden do more for India. In a letter on Friday, members of the House caucus on India and Native Americans urged Biden provide the country with additional resources, including vaccines.
“Our support for India to help fend off this latest wave is in the national interest of the United States as the pandemic will not end anywhere until it ends everywhere,” said the letter, which was signed by two Republicans and two Democrats from the House group.
Psaki, speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday afternoon, said two U.S. military planes loaded with supplies landed in India that morning, adding that more were coming soon.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has contacted his Indian counterpart in recent days, Psaki noted.
Asked about travel from India at a White House pandemic briefing on Friday, Covid response coordinator Jeff Zients said the United States was “constantly monitoring the situation.” He added that America was “in very close contact with our foreign counterparts” and that it “would continue to follow the scientific guidelines of the CDC on travel and other matters.”
– Leslie Josephs of CNBC contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and serves on the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion Inc., and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.