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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Kuwait, Iran restrict India flights over Covid-19 surge

India recorded its highest daily Covid-19 death toll on Saturday [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2021

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The bans come after the UAE, which is home to roughly 3.3 million Indians, said it would suspend all flights to and from India from Sunday.

Kuwait and Iran restricted flights and passengers from India until further notice after the south Asian giant recorded its highest daily Covid-19 death toll and some hospitals ran out of oxygen.

The region's busiest international air hub, the United Arab Emirates, had already announced on Thursday that it would suspend flights to and from India from Sunday.

"In view of the health situation, it has been decided to suspend direct commercial air links with India until further notice," the Kuwaiti government tweeted late Friday.

It said Kuwait residents would only be allowed to return to the emirate via third countries if they stopped over for at least 14 days.

Expatriate workers make up some 70 percent of Kuwait's population and include hundreds of thousands of Indians.

The Iranian authorities said on Saturday that they were suspending air arrivals from India and Pakistan.

"Flights to and from the two countries of India and Pakistan will be banned" from midnight, aviation authority spokesman Mohammad Hassan Zibakhsh said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

"There are no scheduled flights between Iran and India. Nevertheless, accepting connecting passengers from the noted countries will be banned."

As the clock ticked down to the shutdown of the air corridor between India and the UAE - one of the world's busiest - fares soared as Indians who could afford it scrambled to escape the Covid-19 surge.

Price comparison websites showed one-way commercial flights from Mumbai to Dubai on Friday and Saturday costing as much as 80,000 rupees ($1,000) - around 10 times the usual rate.

No tickets were on offer from Sunday when the 10-day flight suspension comes into force.

The UAE is home to roughly 3.3 million Indians who make up a third of the population - most of them in Dubai.

Beyond the Gulf, Canada suspended flights from both India and Pakistan for 30 days, while the US State Department urged Americans to avoid travel to India, even if they are vaccinated.

Read also: UK adds India to Covid travel 'red list' as PM cancels trip

Concern has focussed on one new strain of the virus in particular that has spread rapidly in India and has already been detected in Europe.

Iran said later that it was also suspending flights and passengers from India over the health crisis.

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