The validity of visas of foreigners stranded in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended till April 30, news agency Press Trust of India reported citing an order by the Home Ministry. The announcement comes a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to address the nation on the lockdown.
E-visas, apart from regular visas, are also valid till April 30, PTI reported. The foreign nationals whose visas have been extended have been stranded in the country since March 24, when the lockdown was announced. With all flights grounded, except for essential cargo services, the foreigners had no choice but to stay put and wait out the lockdown.
The lockdown is set to end on Tuesday, though several chief ministers, including Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal, have said they would like it to be extended given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, as seen in some nations hardest hit by the coronavirus like Italy and Iran. Odisha, Punjab, Maharashtra and Telangana have already extended the containment period till the end of the month.
PM Modi in a video conference with chief ministers last week had indicated the lockdown would be extended by two weeks after considering the requests of the chief ministers, who preferred a longer containment period.
The extension of foreigners’ visas till April 30 is yet a strong indication that the government may formally announce a pan-India extension of the lockdown.
Several chief ministers have said the lockdown should be extended in a uniform manner across the country, instead of the states taking a call on the matter separately.
“PM has taken correct decision to extend lockdown. Today, India’s position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early. If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is imp to extend it,” Mr Kejriwal tweeted on Saturday last, after the meeting.
Going ahead, the centre will apply colour codes to districts – red, orange and green – to mark out areas where there are over 15 COVID-19 cases (red), less than 15 (orange) and no cases (green), according to the chief ministers who attended last week’s video conference with PM Modi.