Given the spiking rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in India, the Biden administration has placed a travel restriction from India as of Tuesday, May 4. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the government made the tough decision on the recommendations of the CDC.
Johns Hopkins University data revealed that India recorded over 386,452 new coronavirus infections in the last seven days and an average of 3,498 COVID-19 deaths each day. The total tally for COVID-19 deaths is now 208,330 since the pandemic started.
The country is hit by the new coronavirus variant B.1.617 which is highly infectious and deadly. The mutated virus has also been identified in the United States and other major countries around the world. The variant originated in India.
“The CDC advises, based on work by public health and scientific experts, that these variants have characteristics of concern, which may make them more easily transmitted and have the potential for reduced protection afforded by some vaccines,” the White House stated.
In spite of the travel restrictions from India, US citizens and permanent legal residents are allowed to return to the United States via commercial flights. US diplomats at the consulate and their families are allowed to return at government expense, CNBC reports.
President Joe Biden has spoken with India’s PM Narendra Modi to discuss how to curb the spread of the pandemic and needed assistance. The White House disclosed that COVID-19 welfare aid worth more than $100 million will be sent to India and these include 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 face masks, and one million rapid diagnostic tests.
Psaki said two US military planes had already taken off for India to deliver essential supplies and that the Biden administration will be doing more to curtail the disease in India. Lawmakers who are members of the House Caucus on India and Indian Americans also urge the government to expend more resources to help India, saying that “our support for India to help beat back this latest wave is in the US national interest as the pandemic will not end anywhere until it ends everywhere.”
Meanwhile, a team of public health experts from the CDC is expected to arrive in India very soon where they will be working with Indian health officials to contain the transmission of the pandemic. “We have a responsibility as the United States, and particularly with people we have partnered with over the years, to step up when people are in a time of need,” said Vice President Kamala Harris who is of Indian descent.