Approximately 3,500 UAE nationals have left India in the wake of the Indian government’s imposition of sweeping restrictions in metropolitan areas to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The authorities have also closed the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra, many other tourist sites, museums, and pilgrim centres across the country to prevent crowding and curb transmission of the virus.
Travel industry and airport sources, which provided the figure, said that most UAE nationals who left India feared a complete disruption in aviation links between the Gulf and airports like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, and Hyderabad, which receive a large proportion of Emirati tourists.
February and March are peak months for inbound tourism in India because of the salubrious weather and the festive season in many states.
The Indian government this week directed all airlines not to fly in any passengers from Europe, Turkey, the UK, and many other countries. The temporary ban on entry also applies to Indian nationals, as airlines have been directed not to transport any passengers from the proscribed points of origin.
Indian nationals arriving from the UAE and three other GCC states are subject to a compulsory quarantine for 14 days.
The Indian Government has suspended visas that have already been issued to tourists until next month. It has also withdrawn the "visa on arrival" facility to which UAE passport-holders are entitled.
Airlines flying into India, including Gulf airlines, are drastically reducing the number of flights to Indian cities. UAE nationals who recently departed India feared that flights may soon be stopped altogether owing to lack of traffic.
Ten Emirati students studying at Indian universities also left for the UAE. One more student is to leave as soon as ongoing examinations are over. A few UAE passport-holders, who are in India for medical treatment, are continuing to stay until their treatment concludes.
The UAE Embassy in New Delhi contacted most of those who left India in light of COVID-19 concerns and discussed their options to return in order to ensure their well-being in light of the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic.
Some UAE citizens had also registered with the 'Twajudi' service upon arrival in India so that Emirati authorities could maintain contact with them. The Embassy succeeded in recent days in contacting others separately as well.
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