August 11th, 2021

COVID-19: Impact on Expatriates living and travelling to India – Update

Formula Group

While we see a resurgence of Covid cases in many parts of Europe and the US, India’s Covid graph has witnessed a significant decline in recent weeks and the overall recovery rate has improved to 97.38 per cent. India has successfully administered over 50 million doses of vaccination and looks on point to achieve 100% success by the end of 2021. The lockdown restrictions have been relaxed in most of the states and very few continue with the restrictions depending upon the test positivity rate in the respective cities. 

While India recovered fairly from the first wave, the second wave hit the country the hardest in terms of fatalities. With learnings from the first wave, the country used its experience to combat the effects of the second wave. Strategic lockdowns and easing up of the same have helped numerous States curb the spread of infection while providing the industry with considerable regulatory initiative to restore normalcy. With proactive measures, the country is slowly and steadily fighting against the insurgent second wave.

Indian Government provided relief measures in the form of logistical support, the Essential Commodities Act, and Covid-linked passes, which helped ease the day-to-day operations of multiple stakeholders. The situation improved gradually and confidence towards the business outlook for production rose as a phased reopening of the economy was announced. A positive outlook was witnessed in the manufacturing sector after the stabilization of the first wave due to an easing in Covid-19 restrictions and the resuming of full-time work in factories, which was supported by a surge in new work and exports.

Destination Services:

As schools continue to operate virtually, Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies to deliver education. Educational institutions have moved towards blended learning and are encouraging teachers and students to become technology savvy. Online classes, webinars, virtual classrooms, teleconferencing, digital exams and assessments have become common phenomena. However, the Directorate of Education has not given any indication of resuming physical classes. 

India’s housing sector might have suffered a setback during the first and the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic but housing demand in the country has revived since. While demand and supply both remained adversely impacted during the first two months of the April-June quarter of 2021, a period when most states remained in partial lockdowns to contain the second wave of the coronavirus spread, home sales and rental numbers have started to pick up in June, when states began the gradual opening-up process. The average values of properties in India’s prime residential markets have shown a marginal increase during the April-June period of 2021. 

 

Immigration Services: 

In-country Visa services, which are rendered through FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) are ongoing and active. All these services are online. However, personal visits to the FRRO are only possible with prior appointments. Consular Visa applications for Germany, France, Switzerland, the UK, Angola, and Vietnam have resumed. It is mandatory to get a RT-PCR test done before 72 hours of arrival into India and followed by 14 days home quarantine. However, if the traveller is fully vaccinated, then 7 days self monitoring of health is to be done. The Government of India has opened up all the visa categories except Tourist visas (both electronic and regular) and Visa on arrival. Rest all the visas are being processed through Indian Missions abroad. 

Travel Restrictions

In order to facilitate the movement of persons on the limited international non- scheduled commercial flights, the following SoPs are hereby laid down by Indian aviation sector:

  • The category of persons, who will be eligible to travel on these flights, will be as permitted by MHA from time to time.
  • Persons desirous to travel to India on Vande Bharat flights, will register themselves with the Indian Missions in the country where they are stranded/ residing, along with necessary details as prescribed by MEA. Such a registration may not be required on flights operating under Air Transport Bubbles arrangements.
  • They will travel to India by non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA); and ships as allowed by Department of Military Affairs (DMA)/ Ministry of Shipping (MOS). Only those crew and staff, who are tested COVID-19 negative, will be allowed to operate these flights/ ships.
  • SOP for the operations of these flights/ ships will be issued by MOCA/ DMA or MOS from time to time.
  • Priority will be given to compelling cases of in distress, including migrant workers/ labourers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with expiry of visas, persons with medical emergency/ pregnant women/ elderly persons or those required to return to India due to death of family member, and students.
  • In case of flights operating under air transport bubbles, passenger manifest containing the same details as given above for Vande Bharat flights or in a revised format as may be finalised by MEA with the country concerned, will be submitted by the airlines to the Indian Mission in the country concerned     before operation of each flight with a copy to the State/ UT Government of the destination airport in India
  • MEA/ MOCA will designate State/ UT wise nodal officers, who will coordinate with the nodal officers designated for this purpose by the respective State/ UT, both for the Vande Bharat flights as well as for the flights operated under air transport bubbles.
  • MEA and MOCA will display, with at least two days’ notice, the schedule (day, place and time of arrival) Of the incoming flight/ ship, on their online digital platform.
  • All travellers will also be required to give an undertaking that they are making the journey at their own risk.
  • While on board the flight, required precautions such as wearing of masks, en\/ironmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene etc. are to be observed by airline staff, crew and all passengers.
  • Passengers arriving through the land borders will also have to undergo the same protocol as above.
  • The Guidelines on health protocols and quarantine for international arrivals, as issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), from time to time, will be observed.

 

Buying Essentials

With India moving steadily towards the digital India dream, digital transactions have been on an upswing due to safety and social distancing norms. Availability of more digital wallets, more effortless and secure transactions, and the overriding safety concerns have led to a record adoption of digital payment channels during the pandemic. Though lockdown placed restrictions on e-commerce and consumers were dependent on local stores for essentials, people have slowly made e-commerce a way of life by allowing the delivery of the essentials. Due to fear of going out, consumers switched from retail shops, supermarkets, and shopping malls to online portals for purchasing a range of products, including essentials and subsequently non-essentials. Though stores and malls have reopened, they still operate with restricted access hence people are finding it more convenient to transact online. 

Fleet Services

Formula cars continue to operate as per the government directive. Interstate travel is restricted and we require to obtain travel passes to visit some states. We continue to support our clients in need of essential medical emergencies or airport travels. Formula Group will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and share regular communication and updates as the situation evolves.

 

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