COVID-19 crisis prompts U.S. to restrict travel from India

Passengers arriving at San Francisco International Airport Friday for their direct flight to Delhi said they’d heard about the new U.S. restrictions on travel from India. Many said it will have a big impact on spring and summer travel plans.

“One of my friends’ parents had to cancel their flights because of the current travel ban,” said one San Francisco woman who was seeing her mother off on the Delhi flight.

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West Bengal state was unable to start a drive aimed at adults aged between 18 and 45 due to a shortage of shots and urged the federal government to provide more supplies, a senior state health official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak with media.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the hard-hit state of Delhi on Friday urged people not to queue at vaccination centres, promising more vaccines would arrive “tomorrow or the day after”.

Eastern Odisha state said on Friday it had received a consignment of 150,000 shots but would only allow a few people to get shots due to lockdown restrictions preventing movement.

In Ahmedabad, the main commercial city in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, hundreds of people lined up for their shots.

“I took my first dose and I am appealing to all students to take the vaccine and be safe,” said Raj Shah, a 27-year-old student in the city.

“This year, I think everyone seems to be a lot more excited. I think also with Covid, it’s something fun we can do outside together and the weather has been absolutely beautiful. It’s been great so far,” spectator Brittany Olson said.

“I didn’t feel nervous at all, especially in our seats and everything. Everyone is pretty spaced out, and the mask mandate and everything, everybody is wearing masks. … I’ve been feeling pretty safe here,” Megan Henson added.

The record crowd was 170,000 in 2015.

On April 17, ahead of a state election, a maskless Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted to a sea of cheering supporters: “I’ve never ever seen such huge crowds at a rally.”

His country was on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. That day, India recorded more than 261,000 new coronavirus cases — more than many countries have seen during the entire pandemic.
And it was only going to get worse. Each day since April 22, the country has reported more than 300,000 new cases — at times, up to half of the daily cases reported globally. The capital New Delhi is now running out of wood for cremations. Hospitals are full and lacking oxygen. Only 2% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Foreign leaders are now rushing to India’s aid.
Others in Modi’s orbit have argued state governments are to blame for not imposing regional lockdowns and mismanaging their health care systems. Last weekend, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said oxygen shortages at hospitals were a problem not of supply but distribution, which he claimed was the responsibility of state governments.
But many in India believe responsibility lies with Modi and his Hindu nationalist government, which not only didn’t prepare for a second wave but also encouraged mass gatherings at Hindu festivals and political rallies, including in a closely contested battleground state.

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