The Biden administration will limit travel from India in early Tuesday, the White House said on Friday, as concerns are mounting over a record jump in coronavirus cases there.
“On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the administration will restrict travel from India,” said White House spokesman Jen Psaki. “The policy will be implemented in the light of the unusually large number of Covid-19 cases and the many options circulating in India.”
The White House said the travel ban from India would not apply to U.S. citizens, residents or their spouses. Other persons eligible for exemption include aid workers, some journalists and academics, and students who begin training in the fall, according to a State Department decision, for passengers believed to be in the national interest of the United States. The exceptions reflect those for other countries affected by pandemic travel restrictions.
A spokesman for the Indian embassy did not comment immediately.
The announcement came when India set a world record for new infections, prompting several countries to impose similar travel restrictions. Britain, Canada, Germany, France and Australia were among the growing list of countries that have banned most passengers from India in recent weeks.
India posted another world record of 386,452 new daily infections on Friday, bringing the total to 1
The United States and other governments have increased humanitarian aid to India amid the crisis that has gripped hospitals in the country, leaving many people dying on the pavement waiting to be seen. India is also experiencing a huge shortage of oxygen and related supplies and the government is struggling to vaccinate people against the backdrop of the wave.
Vice President Kamala Harris, the first man of Indian descent to serve in the role, told reporters on Friday that the wave in India was a “great tragedy”.
“As a country, we are committed to supporting the people of India,” Ms. Harris said. “But it’s tragic.”
The State Department said Friday it would send one of India’s top diplomats. Daniel Smith, who served as acting secretary in January before Anthony Blinken was confirmed, will serve as a temporary charge d’affaires in India. “The move underscores the US commitment to working with India to achieve our common priorities, including the well-being of the Indian and American people during the pandemic crisis,” said department spokesman Ned Price.
The Biden administration initially criticized the slow response, but has since announced more than $ 100 million in emergency aid.
Ms Psaki said two US military aid flights with supplies landed in India on Friday. Initial deliveries included hundreds of oxygen cylinders, regulators and pulse oximeters, approximately 184,000 rapid diagnostic tests and approximately 84,000 N95 masks, she said.
The total U.S. aid package announced by the White House this week includes 15 million N95 masks, 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, thousands of oxygen-related supplies, therapeutic agents and materials to produce more vaccines.
United Airlines Holdings Inc.
and Air India are the only two airlines currently offering direct flights between the United States and India.
United’s four daily two-way flights have recently been quite full, according to people familiar with the matter. A spokesman for the merged airline said in a statement that it would comply with the new restrictions.
“The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority and we will comply with all government regulations and travel orders,” United said. “United are proud of the basic air service we offer to connect our two countries, and we will continue to support India in times of need.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has banned most passengers from Britain, the European Union, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, China and Iran.
“Will Moldin and Alison Sider contributed to this article.”
Write to Sabrina Siddiqui at Sabrina.Siddiqui@wsj.com
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