Netherlands bans flights arriving from India starting Monday evening
The Netherlands is imposing a temporary ban on all passenger flights arriving from India starting on Monday at 6 p.m. The flight ban was announced on Sunday as India has had four consecutive days each with over 300 thousand more people testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection.
Coronavirus cases in India have gone up nearly every day since March 1, when just over 11,500 people were diagnosed with the infection. The flight ban is set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on May 1, unless the Cabinet decides to extend it during meetings next week. Cargo flights, and flights with medical personnel will be exempted from the ban.
The flight ban was announced on Sunday night after the Cabinet received new advice from public health agency RIVM, said Infrastructure Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen in a letter to Parliament. “The epidemiological situation on the ground is very serious,” she wrote. The minister noted that there are several variants of the coronavirus there, and there are many uncertainties about their “infectivity, pathogenic capability, and possible reduced protection of antibodies after vaccination or a previous infection.”
The flight ban is a sudden reversal for the caretaker Cabinet. Just on Thursday, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge had to defend the Cabinet’s decision not to ban flights from India. At the time, he said the requirement that all people departing from India directly to the Netherlands have to test negative for the coronavirus infection twice before traveling. Upon arrival, they are also supposed to enter quarantine for between five and ten days, though there is currently no penalty for violating the quarantine advice.
“In short, the [infected] people who still squeak through will go through an entire car wash, so that the virus will probably really stay outside our door,” De Jonge said during the debate. He also said that the Cabinet would have no problem issuing stricter measures if needed.
Seven flights arrive in the Netherlands weekly from India, the Ministry of Infrastructure said. Most of those passengers who arrive continue on to other destinations. “There is uncertainty about the Indian changes and the government wants to prevent the Netherlands from becoming a preferred option for passengers from India when entering the European Union,” the ministry wrote. There is already an entry ban for most people who do not have EU residency.
Like the India flight entry ban, a ban on passenger jets which originated in South Africa and South America will also expire right at the start of May 1. The Cabinet will also review those bans this week.