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NEW DELHI : The Indian government has extended the ban on international commercial flights till 31 January, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a circular on Wednesday. The ban on scheduled overseas flights was to end on 31 December after a nine-month gap.

Dedicated cargo flights and those specifically allowed by the civil aviation regulator such as repatriation flights, charter flights, flights under the Vande Bharat Mission and bilateral air bubble pacts will continue to operate, the civil aviation watchdog said. A bilateral air bubble is a mechanism to resume flights between India and other nations with preconditions during the pandemic.

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International scheduled flights may be allowed on select routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis, the DGCA circular added.

India currently has bilateral bubble agreement with as many as 23 countries, which include countries like Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ukraine, the UAE, and the US.

India has temporarily suspended a similar agreement with the UK to prevent the spread of a new strain of the coronavirus that is considered to be more infectious. The government has also extended the temporary ban on flights to the UK till 7 January.

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