The United States will restrict travel from India starting on May 4, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration made the determination on the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India,” she said.
With 386,452 new cases in the last day, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total deaths to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.
The U.S. action comes days after Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the growing health crisis in India and pledged to immediately send assistance. The U.S. has already moved to send therapeutics, rapid virus tests, and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for that country to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, a CDC team of public health experts was expected to soon be on the ground in India to help health officials there move to slow the spread of the virus.
The White House waited on the CDC recommendation before moving to restrict travel, noting that the U.S. already requires negative tests for all international travelers. Other restrictions are in place on travel from China, Iran, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa, which are or have been hot spots for the coronavirus.
There was no immediate comment on the new limits from the State Department, which on Thursday reissued a warning to Americans against traveling to India and said those already in the country should consider leaving by commercial means. That warning was accompanied by a notice that the department was telling the families of all U.S. government employees at its embassy in New Delhi and four consulates in India that they could leave the country at government expense.