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US imposes travel restrictions on India as COVID-19 cases surge


US imposes travel restrictions on India as COVID-19 cases surge

Photo: Saumya Khandelwal/TIME

Indefinite US restrictions on travel from India will go into effect today. They do not apply to US citizens and permanent residents.

The CDC has classified travel to and from India as “very high risk” as COVID-19 cases have continued to surge. Last week saw over one million new infections in the subcontinent. The Indian government reports that more than 200,000 people have died from the virus, but medical experts allege that the real tally may be five to ten times higher due to mis- and underreporting.

The sharp uptick comes as India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, struggles to inoculate its population of over 1.3 billion. A Russian shipment of Sputnik V will help in the short-term, but India’s earlier vaccine exports, coupled with other countries withholding vaccine supplies, have exacerbated the problem. Though the US has redirected 20 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to India from its own order, the vaccines are in limbo until US authorities approve the jab.

The imposition of US travel restrictions also further underscores Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Likewise, India’s desperate need for international aid undermines India’s image as the pharmacy of the world and any soft-power influence Modi had hoped to gain through his purported vaccine diplomacy. Taken together, the current wave of new cases has revealed the fault-lines in Modi’s constituency which will likely be exploited in future elections.

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