The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India has extended the ban on scheduled international passenger flights till 31 May as the country battles to contain the second wave of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a circular, DGCA said: “…the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 31 May, 2021. This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and fights specifically approved by DGCA.”

However, the aviation regulatory body added that on case-to-case basis, scheduled international flights may be permitted on specified routes.

In March last year, India suspended international flights for the first time after the government imposed a countrywide lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic.

In May 2020, the Indian government introduced the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back stranded Indians from abroad.

In a tweet, Indian Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said: “Vande Bharat Mission began during the first wave to repatriate our stranded & distressed citizens & has since then facilitated nearly 82.9 lakh (8 million) people. Despite personal risk, the corona warriors of civil aviation ensure that the mission continues ahead undaunted.”

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According to Hindustan Times, the country has a bilateral air bubble arrangement with 28 nations currently for flying special international passenger flights.

Some of these countries are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Canada, the UAE, Sri Lanka, France, Germany, Japan, the Maldives, Qatar, Nigeria, the UK and the USA.

India also has signed a pact with countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Ukraine Kenya, Kuwait, Netherlands, Russia, Rwanda, Oman, Seychelles, Tanzania, Nepal, and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, several countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, and the USA, have restricted travel from India due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in the country.