The Indian government has announced a number of preventive measures to minimize the entry and spread of COVID-19. This is an evolving situation and some of these measures are important for businesses to be aware of so that they can take steps to inform their stakeholders accordingly. Boards of Directors are required to be mindful of the following and factor them in while assessing business continuity risks.
- Evacuation measures: The Indian Government has been evacuating thousands of Indian citizens in batches from various locations since January 2020. These passengers are placed under quarantine for a 14 (fourteen) day period and their health conditions are monitored on a daily basis. Now that there is a moratorium on international flights landing in India, Indians abroad are being asked to extend their stay there, with Indian missions in various countries assisting with alternative accommodation. India has also been requesting various countries to extend the visa duration of Indians abroad, in light of the COVID-19 disaster.
- Screening, testing and quarantining: Universal screening at all airports in the country has been mandated due to the given rise in coronavirus imports. Screening measures have also been implemented at 12 major seaports and 65 minor seaports and land borders. Quarantine centers have been set-up to isolate passengers showing symptoms of the infection. [Press note, 2 March 2020, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1604909]
- Labs testing: The National Institute of Virology, Pune (NIV) and 52 other laboratories under the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Viral Research and Diagnostics Laboratories network are equipped to test samples. NIV has facilities for COVID-19 molecular diagnosis and next-generation sequencing. The labs are equipped with reagents to test up to 25,000 samples. Recently, certain private laboratories have also been approved for testing (see our post on testing guidelines)
- Travel restrictions: Travel advisories are being issued by the Indian Government to avoid non-essential travel abroad. Self-quarantine was mandated to passengers arriving in India from China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany. India has now imposed a moratorium on all international flights. Indian Railways has suspended all its passenger train operations till 31 March 2020 (with the exception of a handful of suburban trains). Most inter-state road travel is banned. Several states have taken measures to cancel most forms of intra-state public transport in an effort to prevent community transmission.
- Visa restrictions: From February onward, the e-visas issued to foreign nationals of China were cancelled, followed by cancellation of visas issued to foreign national of various other affected counties such as Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy. Now, all tourist visas to India stand cancelled.
- Directing the shut-down of educational institutions, malls, cinema halls, restaurants, bars, pubs and certain other establishments in some States. The Central Government imposed a “Janata Curfew” or voluntary curfew on 22 March 2020. Following this, the Government recommended that the relevant state governments implement shutdowns in the 75 districts that have reported confirmed COVID-19 cases or casualties. While several state governments have reacted immediately with their own shutdown orders, others are expected to make their announcements very shortly. (Stay tuned to this blog for updates on developments)
- Restriction on public gatherings in various States. (see our post on Section 144)
- Social Distancing. (see our post on the social distancing advisory)
- Restriction on functioning of courts in various States. (see our post on the restrictions on court functioning)