While the world was focused on the tragic events unfolding in Sri Lanka and the Caribbean, James Pattinson’s India was quietly rounding the Cape. The British skipper reported on April 24, 2020, that his crew had taken shelter in a remote part of the country – a place he described as an “island surrounded by water.” The boat’s owner had apparently received clearance to move a large group of refugees to a safer location. It was an extraordinary sight to see boats carrying dozens of weary souls in the Bay of Bengal – an indication of how severely travel restrictions had been imposed in the country.
If you’re planning on visiting India anytime soon, then it’s crucial that you’re aware of the latest regulations and guidelines regarding travel and public gatherings. The government has implemented a series of measures to protect its citizens and ensure social distancing. In the UK, most people are still trying to come to terms with the idea of traveling to a country they’ve never heard of, let alone visited.
The pandemic had not yet reached India when Pattinson’s boats set sail from the country. Unsurprisingly, given that the majority of the population did not contract the virus in the early stages of the pandemic, the country’s health risk is comparatively low. The number of cases in India is still low, with only a few hundred cases reported each day. That is in contrast to a staggering number of cases being reported in other regions of South Asia and in China. More worryingly, India currently lacks the resources and testing kits to conduct widespread screenings, and the authorities are overwhelmed by the number of notifications they’re receiving each day.
A return to pre-pandemic levels is unlikely due to continued international travel and trade. It is a testament to the country’s resilience that the majority of cases have been reported in the country’s poorest regions, as they are the most at risk of becoming infected. The situation will become increasingly worrying if large gatherings are not avoided and people continue to travel abroad for their summer holidays.
Travel & Public Gatherings
One of the most concerning aspects of the pandemic for travelers is the restriction of movement that went hand-in-hand with the lockdown measures. Airports have been closed, business travel has come to a halt, and it’s illegal to leave your home except for necessities. As a direct result, the number of travel-related jobs has plummeted. The Indian government has taken a particularly hard line on tourism in recent months, with the number of foreign visitors plummeting by 95% in April.
Tourism in India is a booming industry, racking up billions of dollars in revenue and providing hundreds of thousands of jobs. It has, therefore, been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Some places, like the historic Fort William, are now closed to the public due to fears of public gathering. Others, like the popular Mumbai Airport, are only accessible by selected visitors.
It is likely that this scenario will be played out around the world as more and more countries take restrictive measures to stop the spread of the virus. Hotels and restaurants are essential for an economy based on tourism, and it’s likely that many of them will close down in the coming months. Travel restrictions and social distancing will undoubtedly impact the way in which people interact and enjoy travel – a major blow for destination countries, some of which are still relatively unknown to the world at large.
As we’ve established, India is one of the lowest-risk countries for COVID-19. Sadly, this does not mean it is exempt from the virus’ effects. COVID-19 has already reached the country, with cases now being reported in every region. It will be a while before a full-blown pandemic is visible in India, but it’s only a matter of time before the disease becomes endemic.
The only way India can stop the spread of the virus is by strictly enforcing the country’s travel restrictions and isolating communities. The government has made it clear that it does not want the UK’s visit to be the last. They have already granted permission for the boat trip to take place, but stipulated that guidelines must be followed and they need to create a plan to monitor and analyze the group’s travel. It is hoped that this will prevent a recurrence of the scenario that led to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the meantime, it’s crucial that tourists continue to travel to India. The country is absolutely stunning, and coupled with its relatively low health risks, it remains one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. However, in light of the pandemic, it is important to follow the rules and guidelines put in place by the government. This means avoiding crowded places and limiting the number of people you meet.
Given that tourism is such an important part of the country’s economy, the government must also protect its natural resources and promote security for visitors. The lockdown measures have had the effect of isolating large groups of people and keeping them cooped up inside their homes, which is possibly why India now lacks the large-scale violent crime that characterized previous years.
Tourists are vulnerable as the country’s economic powerhouse relies heavily on hospitality and the travel industry, with close to a quarter of a million jobs reliant on overseas visitors alone. It is a source of concern that this number could fall by up to a third in the next six months.
If you’re a British citizen traveling to India, then you’ll need a visa. The easiest option is to use a visa waiver, which you can get online and for free from the Government (here).
You’ll need to provide some documentation to prove that you’re from a country that is covered by the agreement. The documentation is fairly easy to provide, and you’ll only need to show that you’ve been to, or are planning on visiting any of the country’s national parks.
Indias’s climate is breathtaking, with some regions boasting incredible temperatures. This has led to a unique array of flora and fauna, making the country an important contributor to science. The climate is also perfectly suited to growing a wide range of tropical fruits, giving the country an extraordinary cuisine scene. Sadly, this also makes it easy for germs to spread.
The country is prone to heavy rainfall, which encourages the growth of mold and fungus. These toxins are particularly harmful to the human lungs. The good news is that most parts of the country are warm enough for you to comfortably strip off and swim. If you’re visiting during the monsoon season, then watch out for mosquitoes – they can make for a painful bite if you’re not careful!
If you’re looking for a new destination to explore, then consider India. The country is not only beautiful but also has such a fascinating history. If you’re looking for wildlife, then you could plan on seeing a tiger or two. The most exciting addition to the country’s tourism scene is its thriving culinary scene, with restaurants offering traditional dishes as well as unique creations crafted from local ingredients. The variety is astounding, with chefs from France, Italy, and Spain all setting up home in the country. There’s so much more to see and do, so make sure you pack your bags!