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With unabated increase in number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, India on Wednesday suspended all existing visas issued to nationals of any country with some exceptions.

The Bureau of Immigration, (Ministry of Home Affairs) in an official statement said that all visas except those issued to Diplomats, Officials from United Nations or International organizations, Employment Protect visas stand suspended till April 15, 2020 with effect from 1200 GMT March 13, 2020 at the port of departure.

The stricter visa restrictions are in place, however, Visas of all foreigners already in India will remain valid. “Any foreigner for onward journey to India may contact the nearest Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) through e-FRRO module for extension/ conversion etc of their visa or grant of any consular service if they choose to do so, “ Dinosh Adhikari Deputy Director, in the Ministry of Home affairs said in his letter to the ministry of health and family welfare said.

Visa restrictions related to COVID-19 were issued by Bol in supersession of all earlier advisories issued in this regard. The decisions were a part of the second meeting of the group of ministers (GoM) held under the chairpersonship of Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare. The recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Guaba were placed before GoM. After detailed deliberations on preventive measures, actions taken and preparedness for Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), the Group of Ministers took more major decisions.

“Visa free travel facility granted to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card holders shall be kept in abeyance till April 15, 2020 This will come into effect from 1200 GMT on March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of any foreigner for onward journey to India. Any foreign national who intends to travel to India for compelling reasons may contact the nearest Indian Mission for fresh visa," an official statement said. The confirmed cases in India a total of 60 among those several are foreigners.

India also announced that all incoming travellers, including Indian nationals, arriving from any destination and having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany on or after February 15, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days with effect from March 13, 2020 at the port of departure of such traveller's.

“Indian nationals are strongly advised to avoid all non-essential travel abroad. On their return, they can be subjected to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. International traffic through land borders will be restricted to designated check posts with robust screening facilities. These will be notified separately by ministry of Home Affairs," said the statement.

The GoM also decided that all States and union territories should be advised by ministry of health and family welfare to invoke provisions of Section 2 of Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time aare enforceable.

The World Health Organisation has already declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. Soon after the apex health agency declared the outbreak as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) after the outbreak started spreading outside Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the virus, countries were free take their own decisions if they want to close their borders, cancel flights, screen people arriving at airports or take other protective measures.

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