India makes negative Covid test mandatory for travellers from five Asian countries

The Indian government is making a negative Covid report mandatory for travellers from five countries, including China, amid fears of a surge of infections after a spurt in cases from its neighbour.

The new rules will apply for travellers from China and Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, the Indian health ministry said on Thursday.

The requirement will take effect from 1 January 2023, the ministry said.

Travellers from these five countries will now have to present negative Covid tests before entering India.

The reports will need to be uploaded to the Indian government’s “Air Suvidha” online portal before departure, federal minister Mansukh Mandaviya wrote on Twitter.

The new rules come into place as several eastern and southeast Asian countries witness an uptick in Covid infections amid cases surging to unprecedented levels in China which has left hospitals under “intense pressure”.

There are concerns over a lack of transparency in figures reported by China and strains circulating among the population of 1.4 billion, as the country abandoned its “zero-Covid” policy and opened its borders.

Meanwhile, Japan on Wednesday posted its highest ever death toll due to the pandemic at 415.

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Before India, several countries, including the US, Italy, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan, said they would also place restrictions on travellers arriving from China.

India earlier started random testing of international passengers from 24 December. However, health ministry officials have raised alarms over rising infections in the next few days.

On Wednesday, the Indian Express newspaper reported, quoting an unnamed official from the Indian health ministry, that India might see a surge in cases in January, citing patterns observed during previous waves.

“We have seen during the three previous waves that any surge reported in East Asian countries hits Europe in about 10 days, the Americas in another 10 days, and the Pacific island countries in another 10 days,” the official was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

“The surge reaches India in 30 to 35 days. So, it is crucial that people stay cautious during the month of January.”

While the official said an increase in hospitalisation and deaths is unlikely, the ministry previously asked for more samples to be sent out for genome sequencing to identify new strains and for people to be more cautious.

In 2021, India suffered one of the most deadliest waves of Covid in the world as patients died waiting for hospital beds and oxygen, leading to crematoriums being overwhelmed.

In the past few months, however, daily cases in India have remained low. Despite a global increase in cases in the last few weeks, the country’s latest figures on Thursday showed 188 new cases in the last 24 hours.