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US asks its citizens to leave India as coronavirus cases cross 18 million
There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the US and other services that connect through Europe
As India's healthcare system is finding it harder to cope with the rising COVID-19 cases due to the second wave of the pandemic, the American government has advised its nationals to return to the US.
The Department of State issued the highest level travel advisory asking US citizens "not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so".
In its advisory, the government in Washington said, "Access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited in India due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. US citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now. Direct flights between India and the United States are offered daily, with additional flight options available to US citizens via transfers in Paris and Frankfurt."
There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the US and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.
The US urged its citizens to enrol with the embassy in order to receive critical information related to health and safety in India, according to Indo-Asian News Service.
New cases and deaths from COVID-19 have risen sharply throughout India to record levels, the advisory said, adding that COVID-19 testing infrastructure is reportedly constrained in many locations. Hospitals are reporting shortages of supplies, oxygen, and beds for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related patients.
The advisory said that the US citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space. Some states have enacted curfews and other restrictions – that limit movements – and the operation of non-essential businesses.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 4 travel health notice too.
"India’s COVID outbreak is a humanitarian crisis," US Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.
"I’m leading a letter to @moderna_tx, @pfizer, and @jnjnews to find out what steps they’re taking to expand global access to their vaccines to save lives and prevent variants from spreading around the world."
India reported 379,257 new COVID-19 cases and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday, according to health ministry data. The official numbers are widely believed to be far lower than the reality.
India has reported 18 million cases of infections since the pandemic began, out of which 14.8 million recovered. So far, over 200,000 people have died due to COVID-19. In the last one month, due to a virulent mutation, the pandemic has taken a heavy toll. On Wednesday, over 360,000 people tested positive for the infection and over 3,000 people died across the country due to the pandemic.
Australia has already banned all flights from India. The UK has banned the entry of any visitor who was in India in the last 10 days.
India's coronavirus disaster deepened on Thursday with its daily death toll climbing above 3,600. It was the deadliest day so far for any country hit by the pandemic.
India's best hope to curb its second deadly wave of COVID-19 was to vaccinate its vast population, after another world record daily infection and death tally and as the government has rejected reports of problems with its vaccine campaign.
Many people who tried to sign up said they failed, complaining on social media that they could not get a slot or they simply could not get online to register as the website repeatedly crashed, according to Reuters.
"Statistics indicate that far from crashing or performing slowly, the system is performing without any glitches," the government said in a statement late on Wednesday.