-Despite having the third highest number of total cases, India has the lowest infection rate among all major economies
Numbers can often be misleading. Large numbers often catch the eye but often blind our vision and our ability to go beyond that. If you look closer, these numbers often tell a completely different story. A story that could inspire the world.
India has over 3 million Covid-19 cases, the only two countries with higher numbers are The United States and Brazil. That 3 million number could look scary in isolation but when compared to the country's 138 billion population, it turns out to be the lowest among all major economies.
Take for example Italy, which has already opened up for tourism. The country had a total of about 257,000 cases, that's 425 cases per 100,000 of the population. United States on the other hand has about 1,726 cases per 100,000 while Qatar has 4,187 cases per 100,000. In contrast, India has only 220 cases per 100,000. That's not to say the country is taking the situation lightly. There are still several measures being taken across the country including strict adherence to wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and rapid testing of a large population.
The country was able to achieve this feat thanks to bold and early measures taken by the Narendra Modi government, which put the entire country under a full and subsequently partial lockdown for months to contain the spread of the virus. While the fight is not yet over, India is opening up for business, albeit with caution to prevent a relapse in infection rates, something seen in many other countries off-late.
International flights begin
India is taking a cautious approach in allowing travel to and from other countries. While it has been running repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat banner since April, flights from several countries have now been allowed through air bubble agreements.
Restrictions on the entry into India of OCI cardholders from countries with which the Indian government has 'air bubble' arrangements have been removed.
In addition, foreign nationals belonging to countries with which India has 'air bubble' arrangements can now avail Indian visa facility for business, medical and employment purposes in the country.
So far, only limited categories of people who had resident permits were allowed to travel on international flights.
India is also negotiating with 13 countries, including Australia, Japan and Singapore, to establish separate bilateral air bubble arrangements for international flight operations. Moreover, air bubbles have also been proposed with neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan.
Under the phase 6 of the Vande Bharat Mission, Air India will start operating over 145 flights between India and the US starting 1st of September. In this phase it will cover Delhi-New York, Mumbai-Newark, Delhi-Washington DC, Delhi-Chicago and Delhi-San Francisco routes.
Some of the other crucial destinations which will be covered by Air India in phase 6 also include Vancouver, Toronto, London, Shanghai and Chicago.
Since July, India has established air bubbles with the US, the UK, France, Germany, the UAE, Qatar and the Maldives.
Apart from Air India, Indigo and SpiceJet have also started operating international flights from India.
Thousands of expatriates have already returned to India to resume their business and personal lives in India through these efforts.
What's allowed in India
Indian government has identified several containment zones, which remain under supervision to contain the situation. For all other areas, businesses are allowed to open up offices, albeit with limited staff members at any given moment. Travel within in India has also been eased up. Some states require you to carry Covid-19 negative certificate to enter the state and a travel permit, which can be obtained online. Tests are also being undertaken at state borders to ease the movement of individuals.
What's not allowed
Operation of Metro rail, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places shall continue to remain prohibited, according to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Social, political, sports, entertainment, religious functions and other large congregations are still restricted to maintain social distancing.