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US to restrict travel from India over COVID surge


President Biden will restrict travel to the US from India starting May 4 amid the Asian nation’s COVID-19 crisis, the White House announced Friday.

“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the decision, which was made on the advice of the CDC.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported 3,498 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s fatality toll to 208,330. The nation is second only to the United States in terms of total COVID-19 deaths, although experts believe that India’s numbers are severely undercounted.

The travel ban comes the day after the US State Department urged Americans to leave India as soon as possible, citing reports of US citizens being denied care by the the other country’s overwhelmed hospitals.

“Hospitals are reporting shortages of supplies, oxygen, and beds for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related patients,” the US Embassy & Consulates in India said in a statement Thursday.

Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week about the growing health crisis and pledged to immediately send assistance.

The United States has already moved to send therapeutics, rapid tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for that country to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We as a country have made a commitment to the people of India to support them,” Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Friday. “My prayers go to the people on the suffering, the blatant suffering that is happening.” 

Biden’s team waited for the CDC’s recommendation before moving to restrict travel, arguing that the US already requires negative tests and quarantines for all international travelers.

Additional reporting by Steven Nelson and Post Wires

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