India’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 outbreak

The Government of India has taken preemptive steps to contain the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). India had put in place a comprehensive response system at its borders much before WHO declared it as a public health emergency of international concern on January 30

March 28, 2020

COVID-19, which has claimed around 42,000 lives between December 2019 and March 2020, has been declared a global pandemic by the WHO

This health crisis has disrupted human and goods traffic globally and is expected to cost the global economy more than US$1 trillion in 2020

India started screening incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and imposing a ban on international flights ahead of any other country

Apart from providing comprehensive healthcare assistance, India has launched a US$22.5 billion relief plan to help the most vulnerable ride out the crisis

The Government of India has taken preemptive steps to contain the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). India had put in place a comprehensive response system at its borders much before WHO declared it as a public health emergency of international concern on January 30. COVID-19, which has claimed around 42,000 lives between December 2019 and March 2020, has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 860,000 people have so far contracted the disease in over 180 countries. With a cure believed to be 12-18 months away, the impact of the disease is expected to spread rapidly. This health crisis has disrupted human and goods traffic globally and is expected to cost the global economy more than US$1 trillion in 2020.

India has announced a US$22.5 billion relief plan targeting the most vulnerable in this crisis, along with providing the most comprehensive healthcare assistance to patients

As part of its initiatives, the Government of India had started screening incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and imposing a ban on international flights ahead of any other country. Thermal screening of incoming passengers from China and Hong Kong was started on January 18, before the first case of Coronavirus was detected in India on January 30. A look at the global scenario would highlight that Italy and Spain, which are devastated by COVID-19, had started screening travellers 25 days and 39 days respectively, after the first reported case. India took a number of proactive measures, such as travel restrictions, adding more countries and airports for screening, suspension of visas and self-quarantine measures to effectively contain, prevent and manage the spread of the disease.

A chronology of the decisions taken so far:

  • Jan 17 – Advisory issued to avoid travel to china
  • Jan 18 – Thermal screening of passengers from China and Hong Kong
  • Jan 30 – Strong advisory issued to avoid travel to China
  • Feb 3 – E-visa facility suspended for Chinese citizens
  • Feb 22 – Advisory issued to avoid travel to Singapore; Universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia
  • Feb 26 – Advisory issued to avoid travel to Iran, Italy, and South Korea. Passengers coming from these countries to be screened and may be quarantined based on screening and risk assessment
  • March 3 – Suspension of all visas for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan, and China; Compulsory health screening for passengers arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan
  • March 4 – Universal screening of all International Flights. Quarantine or isolation at home or sent to hospital-based on screening and risk profile
  • March 5 – Passengers from Italy and South Korea need to get a medical certificate before entry
  • March 10, Home isolation – Incoming international passengers should self-monitor health and follow Govt. Dos and Don’ts: passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain, and Germany to undergo home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival
  • March 11 – Compulsory Quarantine- of incoming travellers (including Indians) from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain, and Germany after February 15 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days
  • March – Comprehensive advisory:
    • March 16: Expanded compulsory quarantine for travellers from or through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait for a minimum of 14 days. Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the UK to India prohibited
    • March 17: Travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia prohibited
    • March 19: All Incoming international flights suspended, with effect from 22nd March
  • March 25 – An extension of the suspension of all incoming International Flights to India extended till 14th April 2020

With the evolving global spread of the disease, travel advisories were revised and airport screening was expanded to all airports across India. Screening of passengers took place at 30 airports, 12 major and 65 minor ports and land borders. Over 3.6 million passengers have been screened. After being screened by health authorities at the airports, passengers were quarantined or sent to hospitals, based on risk assessment by health authorities. Details of even those who were cleared by health authorities were shared with the State Government authorities so that they can be kept under the surveillance of their respective State/UT Governments for the required number of days. As of March-end, around 1,400 people in India have been reported with Coronavirus while 35 have died in a nation of 1.3 billion.

There has been continued communication between the Central and State Governments to best battle the Coronavirus outbreak. Apart from providing the most comprehensive healthcare assistance, India has announced a US$22.5 billion relief plan to help the most vulnerable ride out the crisis. Meanwhile, there have been several initiatives like the Invest India Business Immunity Platform to protect the future of foreign investment and trade activities. Such platforms connect innovators, startups, and MSMEs and help them showcase their solutions relevant to the ongoing crisis as well as the future of business. While the Coronavirus will slow down economic activities around the world, impacting India in the process, the Government is taking all measures to ensure that the country springs back to action at the earliest.