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  • Currently, India has air bubble arrangements with 13 countries. These are the US, the UK, Germany, France, the UAE, Maldives, Canada, Japan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar and Iraq.
  • While some state protocols mandate seven days of institutional quarantine plus seven days of home quarantine for international passengers, others require them to be institutionally quarantined for 10 or 14 days.
  • Even as India continues to add to its air bubble arrangements, a number of jurisdictions have begun restricting travel from India because of the high Covid19 case-load in the country.

What is an Air or Travel Bubble?

  • Creating a travel bubble involves reconnecting countries or states which have shown a good level of success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic domestically.
  • Such a bubble would allow the members of the group to restart trade ties with each other and open travel and tourism.
  • According to a report, potential travel bubbles among better-performing countries around the world would account for around 35% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • Travel bubbles are favored by smaller countries because they are likely to benefit after being able to trade again with larger partners

Which countries does India have air bubble arrangements with?

  • Currently, India has air bubble arrangements with 13 countries. These are the US, the UK, Germany, France, the UAE, Maldives, Canada, Japan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar and Iraq. The Centre is also negotiating these arrangements with other countries like Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Israel, Kenya, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. In addition to air bubble flights, Indian carriers are flying to these countries under the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indian citizens.

Which jurisdictions have restricted air travel from India?

  • While some countries like Kuwait have a blanket ban on travel to and from India, jurisdictions like Hong Kong have an ongoing suspension on Air India’s flights to its airport till October 3. Hong Kong had banned Air India’s Vande Bharat flights for two weeks after several passengers brought in by the airline tested positive for coronavirus upon testing. Authorities in Dubai also banned Air India Express flights after the airline carried Covid19 positive passengers on two different occasions. The emirate however overturned its ban after the airline profusely apologised. Another west Asian country Saudi Arabia earlier this week announced a ban on travel to and from India, along with Brazil and Argentina, for high caseloads but later allowed Vande Bharat repatriation flights to fly passengers to India from airports such as Riyadh and Dammam.

What are the relaxations being done to air travel?

  • On the domestic front, the government has gradually lifted certain restrictions such as relaxing the cap on number of flights from 45 per cent of pre-Covid number to 60 per cent. In addition, on-board meal services have been allowed on domestic sectors. In the latest development on Thursday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has allowed airlines to decide the baggage rules. Prior to this, the guidelines for resumption of domestic travel with effect from May 25 only allowed for one baggage to be checked in per passenger.

By when are regular international flights expected to resume?

  • The resumption of regular international operations still remains a function of destination jurisdictions allowing travel from India. Speaking at The Indian Express’ Idea Exchange event last month, Civil Aviation Minister had alluded to the fact that it was difficult to anticipate when the other countries allow people from India to come in to their borders.