April 30 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government told its citizens to get out of India as soon as possible as the country’s Covid-19 crisis worsens at an astonishing pace.
In a Level 4 travel advisory — the highest of its kind issued by the State Department — U.S. citizens were told “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.” There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the U.S. and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.
Indian authorities and hospitals are struggling to cope with unprecedented Covid infections and deaths. Official data on Thursday showed new cases rose by a staggering 379,257 over the prior 24 hours, another record, while 3,645 additional lives were lost. More than 204,800 people have died.
“U.S. citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space,” the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India said in a health alert. “U.S. citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now.” All routine U.S. citizen services and visa services at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai have been canceled.
A representative for the U.S. embassy in Delhi didn’t immediately respond to a message asking if U.S. citizens can receive help leaving India, and whether they face restrictions or quarantine measures upon arrival in the U.S.
The South Asian nation now has the world’s fastest-growing caseload with 18.4 million confirmed instances. The virus has gripped India’s populace with a severity not seen in its first wave.
Mass funeral pyres, lines of ambulances outside overcrowded hospitals and desperate pleas on social media for oxygen underscore how unprepared India’s federal and state governments are to tackle the latest outbreak.
The unfolding tragedy is prompting some of the world’s biggest corporations to organize aid. Amazon.com Inc. is harnessing its global logistics supply chain to airlift 100 ICU ventilator units from the U.S., and the equipment will reach India in the next two weeks. Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said he was “heartbroken” by the situation and the tech behemoth is using its voice, resources and technology to aid relief efforts and help buy oxygen concentrators.
Blackstone Group Inc. Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said his private equity firm is committing $5 million to support India’s Covid relief and vaccination services to “marginalized communities.” Local companies, too, are wading in, with the philanthropic arm of India’s most valuable company — Reliance Industries Ltd., controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — pledging to create, commission and manage 100 ICU beds that will become operational mid next month.
As thousands of doctors, nurses and non-medical professionals work around-the-clock to save what patients they can, countries around the rest of the world are drawing up their bridges.
Within Asia, Hong Kong banned flights from India, as well as Pakistan and the Philippines, for 14 days from April 20. Singapore has barred long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have recently been in India from entering. Indonesia is also denying entry to people traveling from India.
Further afield, the U.K. has added India to its travel ban list, and the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have halted passenger flights from India. Canada last week banned flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days. Australia banned flights from India this week.