A Kashmiri farmer tosses his product to a seller at the floating vegetable market at Dal lake, which is a unique site in Srinagar, Kashmir, on September 9. On Thursday, the Indian government announced that starting Oct. 15, the country would resume issuing tourists visas. File Photo by Abhishek/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 8 (UPI) -- India has announced that starting next week it will grant tourist visas to foreign nationals for the first time in more than a year.
The country's Ministry of Home Affairs announced in a statement Thursday that foreign nationals arriving by chartered flights will receive tourist visas starting Oct. 15 while those arriving by other means can receive the visa starting Nov. 15.
India suspended nearly all visas in March of last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, effectively shutting down tourism, which is a major industry for the country, worth about $234 billion in 2018 when more than 10.5 million tourists visited, according to the Indian government.
"After considering various inputs, the MHA has decided to begin granting fresh Tourist Visas for foreigners coming to India," it said.
India has been one of the worst affected countries to the pandemic with nearly 34 million infections, putting it second in the world behind the United States. Its 450,160 deaths places it third behind Brazil with nearly 600,000 and the United States with more than 730,000 deaths to the pandemic, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University.
However, despite being the epicenter of the pandemic earlier this year, its cases have been dropping as it experiences the lowest number in cases and deaths in four months.
According to worldometers.info, India has experienced a 20% weekly drop in deaths and a 13% drop in cases.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said Thursday that it had been receiving officials from several state governments and other stakeholders in the tourism sector about resuming the issuing of tourist visas.
The ministry warned travelers who do come to the country that they must abide by all coronavirus restrictions.
"All due protocols and norms relating to COVID-19 as notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare from time to time shall be adhered to by the foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and all other stakeholders at landing stations," it said.
Under the U.S. travel advisory system, India is listed as Level 2, meaning those traveling to India are urged to exercise increased caution due to COVID-19, crime and terrorism, according to the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India website.
Homeless and migrant laborers affected by the COVID-19 lockdown queue up to receive free cooked food distributed by Sikh volunteers in New Delhi, India, on May 18, 2021. Photo by Abhishek/UPI | License Photo