India has extended the ban on international passenger flights until August 31 in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19, the Indian Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) announced on Friday.
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Flights to and from India were first banned in March 23 after a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, known as the Delta variant, was detected in the country.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the new strain is as contagious as chickenpox and could cause severe illness.
The Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu, and smallpox, an internal CDC report said.
A recent Austrian study found that vaccines are not strong enough to prevent the Delta variant alone, and vaccinated people must adhere to preventative measures such as social distancing and wearing masks to ensure they are not infected.
While the ban on foreign travel has been repeatedly extended since March, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation signed bilateral air bubble agreements with 28 countries to ensure that thousands of Indians who travel abroad regularly for work or study are able to enter and leave the country.
India on Friday reported its highest number of new cases in three weeks with 44,230 new COVID-19 infections, sparking fear over the trend of rising cases that has forced one state to lock down amid fears of another wave of infections.