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US to ban travelers from India, as subcontinent grapples with Covid surge

“On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Administration will restrict travel from India starting immediately,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday. “The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the [sic] India.”

The policy will take effect on Tuesday, and will not affect US citizens or lawful residents traveling from India.

Biden’s new travel ban excludes more than 1.3 billion people from coming to the US. With bans already in place regarding travelers from China, the European Schengen countries, Britain, Ireland, Iran, Brazil and South Africa, nearly half of the world’s 7.6 billion people are now forbidden from entering the US.

India has experienced a surge in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks, and a sharp spike in deaths. After weeks of recording hundreds of thousands of cases per day, a record 386,452 new Covid-19 infections were reported on Friday, bringing the total number of cases seen in the country above 19 million. 211,000 people have died of coronavirus-related causes in India since the pandemic began.

Hospitals in India are overcrowded and vaccines, medicine and oxygen are in short supply. A shipment of US medical aid landed in New Delhi earlier on Friday, following similar shipments from Russia and the EU.

President Joe Biden has been pressed for several weeks to ship vaccines to India, and promised on Monday to send “vaccine materials” to the virus-stricken subcontinent. Later that day, the White House announced plans to send around 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine abroad, though it is unclear how many of these would be reserved for India, or when India could expect to receive them.

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