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India opens to vacationers, Europe cases rise

India is opening up to fully vaccinated foreign tourists while several European countries enforce tighter COVID-19 restrictions amid rising infection rates.

Tourists entering India must be fully vaccinated, follow all COVID-19 protocols and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight, according to the health ministry.

Many will also need to undergo a post-arrival COVID-19 test at the airport.

However, travellers from countries which have agreements with India for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, such as the US, UK and many European countries, can leave the airport without undergoing a COVID-19 test.

This is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists on commercial flights to enter the country since March 2020, when it imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world in an attempt to contain the pandemic.

Fully vaccinated tourists on chartered flights were allowed to enter starting last month.

It comes as coronavirus infections have fallen significantly, with daily new cases hovering at just above 10,000 for more than a month.

To encourage travellers to visit India, the government plans to issue 500,000 free visas through next March.

The moves are expected to boost the tourism and hospitality sector which was battered by the pandemic.

Travel Agents Association of India president Jyoti Mayal said coastal states like Kerala and Goa in the country’s south and Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayan north are already witnessing a surge in domestic tourists.

With more than 35 million reported coronavirus infections, India is the second-worst-hit country after the US.

Active coronavirus cases stand at 134,096, the lowest in 17 months, according to the health ministry.

Nearly 79 per cent of India’s adult population has received at least one vaccine dose while 38 per cent is fully vaccinated.

In Europe, Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated entered into force on Monday.

About two million citizens over the age of 12 will only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for essential goods, go outside for fresh air, visit a doctor or go to work with a negative test result.

These measures come as figures have been soaring in Austria, with authorities recording nearly 850 cases per 100,000 people over seven days.

The lockdown measures, in force until November 24, are designed to encourage people to get jabs.

Russian authorities are mulling mandatory health passes to access public spaces and transport.

Russia’s COVID-19 information centre on Monday recorded 38,420 new cases within 24 hours, with a death toll topping 1200 for the seventh consecutive day.

Russian authorities blame the sharp increase in infections and deaths on the highly contagious Delta variant as well as a general lack of public compliance to health rules combined with an unwillingness to get vaccinated.

A dramatic increase in numbers of infections in Germany is putting further pressure on the negotiations to form a new coalition government.

The three parties involved are working to agree on a plan to impose a series of restrictions on those not yet vaccinated against the virus.

The plan includes making a health pass or a negative test result a requirement to access to public transport.

About 67.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated in Germany, while 70 per cent have taken the first vaccine dose.

French primary school students must wear face masks in class starting on Monday in a bid to stem a fifth wave of infections.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that there was no need to plan for restrictions despite the sharp increase in coronavirus infections in other European countries.

“We don’t see anything in the data at the moment to suggest that we need to go to Plan B, we’re sticking with Plan A,” Johnson said on Monday.

with EFE

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