India said on Wednesday it will suspend all tourist visas to the country in a wide-reaching attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as cases across the region continued to rise.
The virus has hit Europe and the United States far harder than China’s most immediate neighbours in South Asia, where no one has yet died. But as the number of cases in the region topped 80, experts fear that its overstretched medical systems may not be able to handle the type of intensive care required.
“All existing visas, except diplomatic, official, U.N./international organizations, employment, project visas, stand suspended till 15th April 2020,” India’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
It was not clear if the ban would include short-term business visas, though the advisory said anyone with a “compelling reason” to travel to the country could contact their nearest Indian mission.
It also urged Indian nationals to avoid all non-essential travel abroad, in one of the most far-reaching advisories since the outbreak began in late December.
Spokespeople for India’s Health and Foreign Ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday India suspended issuing visas to citizens of France, Spain and Germany until further notice. Such restrictions were already in place for citizens of China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea – the five countries worst hit by the outbreak of the virus.
India has also closed a border with neighbouring Myanmar to counter the coronavirus outbreak, as countries across South Asia reported a rise in cases on Wednesday. No cases have so far been confirmed in Myanmar.
Total cases in the country rose to 68 on Wednesday, according to data from the federal heath ministry and the chief minister of Maharashtra state.