China suspends VBM flights from India till further notice


Beijing: China indefinitely suspended Thursday air travel from India. The decision to bar non-Chinese flyers to return to China was taken following a spike in COVID-19 cases in last week’s Vande Bharat Mission (VBM). While commercial flights between India and China have not resumed, Air India has been operating special rescue flights under the VBM mechanism to different cities of China.

Beijing made similar announcements to bar entry of non-Chinese visitors from Britain, Belgium and the Philippines. It demanded travellers from the United States, France and Germany present results of additional health tests. China is taking all possible measures against resurgence in coronavirus cases in the country.

The new suspension order is a partial reversal of an easing on September 28. On that day Beijing allowed all foreigners with valid residence permits to enter.

China had banned entry of foreigners in response to the epidemic at the end of March.

For India, it means the four VBM flights scheduled every week from November 13th onwards now would have to be rescheduled. Officials here said more than 1500 Indians had registered to return to China. However, the new announcement makes their return to China uncertain.

The Chinese foreign ministry defended the decision. It said it was a ‘reasonable and fair’ measure to tackle the pandemic.

“China is drawing on the practices of many countries. It is adjusting its handling of the entry of the relevant people into China based on the changing pandemic situation. It has to be implemented,” ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said at the regular ministry briefing Thursday.

The India-specific announcement said that neither the Chinese embassy in New Delhi nor consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata would stamp on health certificates furnished by normal passport holders.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hereby announced that China has decided to temporarily suspend the entry into China by foreign nationals in India holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits,” the Chinese government said in an announcement Thursday.

“The Chinese Embassy/ Consulates in India will not stamp the Health Declaration Forms for the holders of the above-mentioned categories of visa or residence permits,” the statement added.

There were 23 COVID-19 positive Indians among them 19 asymptomatic carriers of the infection were on board a VBM flight, which landed in the central Chinese city of Wuhan from New Delhi last Friday. The flight had registered the highest number of infected persons on an Indian rescue flight to China so far.