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Scheduled international flights to remain suspended till February 28

Scheduled international commercial flights to and from India will remain suspended till February 28, Director General of Civil Aviation said in a fresh order on Wednesday. Flights under air bubble arrangements will not be affected, the DGCA said. The decision comes as the world is braving a fresh wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by Omicron, the latest variant of the SARS-CoV-2.

In November 2021, the Centre decided to resume scheduled international flight operations from December 15. The emergence of Omicron threw a spanner in the plan and the government withdrew the decision to resume scheduled international flights days before January 15.

Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India from March 23, 2020, two days before a nationwide lockdown was imposed in the country. The suspension was extended every month allowing emergency international travel under the air bubble agreements.

India has air transport bubbles with Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, US and Uzbekistan. The agreements allow both-way air travel under some terms and conditions.

No direct air travel is allowed to countries not covered under air travel bubble agreements.

International air travel has come on the radar as Omicron, the variant first detected in South Africa on November 24, 2021, travelled to India through international travellers. The first Omicron cases were international travellers which prompted Delhi, West Bengal to raise demand for banning international flights from countries worst-affected by Omicron.

Flights under the air bubble agreement were not banned but India identified some countries as ‘at-risk’. The list includes all countries of Europe, including the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Ghana, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Israel, Congo, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia and Zambia.

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