US to restrict travel from India over COVID starting Tuesday

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the media on India, prior to boarding Air Force Two, Friday, April 30, 2021, at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, in Hebron, Ky., on return to Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden's administration made the determination on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Biden signed a proclamation barring entry to most foreigners who have been in India in the past 14 days, with exceptions for legal permanent residents, spouses and close family members of U.S. citizens, and some others. He cited the spread of the virus and its variants.

“The CDC advises, based on work by public health and scientific experts, that these variants have characteristics of concern, which may make them more easily transmitted and have the potential for reduced protection afforded by some vaccines,” Biden said in the proclamation.

He said the CDC has concluded that “proactive measures” are needed to protect public health from travelers from India.

With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.

Biden spoke Monday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the growing health crisis and pledged to immediately send assistance. This week, the U.S. began delivering therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for India to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, a CDC team of public health experts was expected to be on the ground soon to help Indian health officials move to slow the spread of the virus.

Vice President Kamila Harris, who is of Indian descent, called the situation in India a “great tragedy” and said she hadn’t spoken to any of her relatives still living there since the news of the travel ban was made public. She emphasized America’s “longstanding, decades-long relationship” with the country in speaking about the U.S. aid to help alleviate some of the crisis there.