Trapped By India Travel Bans: Workers, Expats, Families An Aussie Cricket Team

Starting Tuesday, the will restrict Indian nationals from flying into the The bans are designed to protect the world from a dangerous variant that has yet to be fully analyzed -- but are leaving many people stranded. @Kamal_t reports:

Trapped By India Travel Bans: Workers, Expats, Families An Aussie Cricket Team Photo

People wait at an exit gate at the Kolkata Airport Terminal. International air travel to and from India has been restricted as the country battles a catastrophic COVID-19 surge. Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

People wait at an exit gate at the Kolkata Airport Terminal. International air travel to and from India has been restricted as the country battles a catastrophic COVID-19 surge.

Its part of a growing global ban on travel to and/or from India in the wake of the catastrophic COVID-19 surge that is setting records for daily cases – 400,000 and up reported. And health officials believe the numbers are vastly undercounted.

The travel bans are designed to protect the rest of the world from a dangerous variant that has yet to be fully analyzed. And many health experts say travel bans are effective public health measures.

Prapagaran Vengadasalam is the first in his family to graduate from college, "the first one to ever set foot overseas," he says. The 29-year-old technology lead, working for Infosys in the southern Indian city of Mysore, was set to leave for Canada for a year of duty at the end of April. A week before he was due to leave, however, Canada joined the list of countries that had banned flights out of India.

Beyond Canada, the list of travel bans is a long one: the U.K., Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, Kuwait, Indonesia, Malawi, the Maldives, Tanzania, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Thailand and Italy.

Perhaps the most severe restrictions are for Australian citizens. The 9,000-plus Aussies living and visiting in India are unable to return home, including a national cricket team that had come to participate in Indian Premier League matches. The Australian government threatened those who skirt the ban with jail time ranging from 14 days up to five years, a $50,000 fine or both — but Prime Minister Scott Morrison later said it was "highly unlikely" that the maximum penalties would be levied.

Stranded visitors are posting in a Facebook support group called "Australians Stuck in India," which has a growing community of 30,000 members. The group has become a place to seek advice, quell anxiety and update travel information.

"There is deep worry over the well-being of family and friends," says Rhadika Sunderaj, one of the stranded Australians. She is a citizen of Indian origin who returned last year to plan her sons wedding (which was canceled due to the pandemic).

"I know many who have lost their loved ones in India and are unable to reach out to them in their last moments or attend their funerals because of these crushing travel restrictions," she says.

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