Trade and Travel Restrictions: India

Constantly updated information about the situation in India with focus on the general situation, movement of goods and movement of people.
 

overview

A quick overview of the affected areas. Please find more detailed information below.

General Situation

General Situation

Description of the current situation

The Indian government imposed a nation-wide lockdown in March 2020 which was partially lifted three months later, in June. Since then, there have been significant relaxations vis-à-vis movement of people and resumption of economic activity. Read: Guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution, in force till March 31.

In the months following unlock, which was primarily necessitated by the need to kick start the adversely hit Indian economy, the country witnessed a surge in the number of cases. This surge was attributed to the opening up of offices, markets, resumption of domestic travel, the festive season and winter months. Amidst this spike in the number of cases, there were news articles indicating under reporting of cases. In the last few months, awareness campaigns carried by the administration coupled with stricter enforcement of restrictions seems to have resulted in a downward trend in the number of active cases across the country. However, since mid-February 2021, some States such as Kerala and Maharashtra are witnessing an increase in the number of daily cases. This development, coupled with efforts to prevent the spread of the new strain, has resulted in further tightening of travel restrictions, both within the country, and also for international travellers.

In January 2021, India kick started its Covid-19 vaccination drive and the vaccines being administered are a) Covishield, developed in the UK by Oxford-AstraZeneca and produced in India by the Serum Institute of India, and b) Covaxin, developed and produced in India by Bharat Biotech Intl Limited. Total vaccination by March 04: 16’616’048

Covid-19 overview India on March 03

Active Cases:                         173'413
Cured/Discharged Cases: 10’826'075
Deaths:                                   157'435
Total cases:                      11'156'923

States with the highest number of “Active Cases” on March 03


Maharashtra:                   83'556
Kerala:                             46'288
Karnataka:                         6'076
Punjab:                              5'593
Tamil Nadu:                       3'990
West Bengal:                     3'245
Delhi:                                 1’584

Healthcare facilities in the country

With a decline in the number of active cases, the pressure on healthcare facilities appears to have eased to a certain extent. Read news reports:

Government measures

  • The Government of India Covid-19 tracing app: Aarogya Setu
  • The Government of India helplines: +91 11 2397 8046, Toll Free 1075 and ncov2019@gov.in

Nation-wide lockdown phases:

  • Lockdown in 4 phases: March 25 to May 31 2020
  • Lockdown phase 5 and Unlock 1: June 01 to June 30 2020
  • Unlock phase 2 - 6: July 01 to November 30 2020 (except for in containment zones)
  • December 2020 till February 28 2021: Guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution

Economic outlook (economic development, effects on industries)

GDP figures indicate that the economy nose-dived to an 11 year low, growing at 4.2% during FY 2019-20, compared to 6.1% in the previous year, suggesting that growth had slowed even before the lockdown was announced in March. The impact of the strict lockdown which restricted movement of goods and people, put an initial stop to industrial production, and witnessed massive job losses, has further led to the contraction of the Indian economy; reflected in the GDP growth rate of minus 23% in April-June 2020 (a period which overlaps with the lockdown). The IMF estimated India’s GDP to drop to -4.5% in June, but has now corrected this figure to -10%. As the Indian economy enters its first ever technical recession, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in a nowcast, has indicated that GDP for July-September 2020 is set for a contraction of 8.6%. However, after the release of final figures, this contraction has been revised to 7.5% (read more). NSO advance estimates indicate an economic contraction of 7.7%, slightly steeper than the previous estimate of 7.5%, in year ending March 31.

Several rating agencies and international institutions have predicted a contraction in GDP growth with SBI Research at minus 6.8% and the latest by World Bank at minus 3.2%. In June 2020, Moody’s downgraded the Government of India’s ratings to “Baa3” from “Baa2” (outlook “negative”), and Fitch has revised its outlook on India from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’. Recently, Moody’s Investors Service has revised India’s 2020 GDP forecast to minus 8.9%, from the earlier projected minus 9.6%.

During lockdown, while activity was permitted for units producing essential goods, the government imposed export restrictions on certain essential pharmaceutical products leading to supply chain disruptions for domestic and for international companies, including for Swiss companies (see point 2).

Special Economic package: Self-reliant India Movement “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”

In May, Prime Minister Modi announced a special economic package of INR 20 trillion (USD 265 billion), nearly 10% of India’s GDP. Half of the announced package includes liquidity measures taken by India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, from February 2020 until date, and the fiscal package announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in March 2020.The PM, in his speech, laid emphasis on the following five areas: growing new economy, state of the art infrastructure, tech-based delivery services, demand and supply chains and lever aging demography. He also announced that reforms in areas governing land, labor, liquidity and laws would be an integral part of this package.  Subsequently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the details of the economic package in five tranches.

After announcing economic measures to stimulate consumer demand, FM Sitharaman has recently outlined 12 key measures to further boost the country’s manufacturing and export capabilities. In addition to extending the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme to cover larger companies in 27 stressed sectors, the gov has also expanded the Production Linked Incentives Scheme (PLI), first announced for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing. With a financial outlay of INR 1.45 trillion (approx. USD 20 billion) over the next 5 years, the PLI scheme has identified the following 10 Champion Sectors - advanced chemistry cell (ACC) battery, electronic/technology products, automobile and auto component, pharmaceuticals and drugs, telecom and networking products, textile products, food products, high efficiency solar photovoltaic modules, white goods (ACs and LEDs), and specialty steel. FM’s full presentation is available at Aatmanirbhar Bharat Package 3.0.

Focus on self-reliance/ Make in India

In the last few months, the government has introduced several measures to boost domestic manufacturing and protect MSMEs from foreign competition. Further, the Indian government has explicitly demonstrated that its future policies and measures on trade will focus on the aforementioned self-reliant India (Aatma Nirbhar) policy. This has resulted in new rules for government tenders in India.

According to a press article “Foreign entities of countries which do not allow Indian companies to participate in their government buying will not be permitted to take part in domestic procurement, an official statement said on Friday. The government has added a reciprocity clause in its Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order, 2017.” Read the full order issued by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, on September 16.

The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion has issued a Consolidated FDI Policy Circular of 2020.

Movement of goods

Movement of goods

There is significant relaxation vis-à-vis movement of goods and people, and restarting of economic activities. The issues faced by companies during lockdown such as supply chain bottlenecks, liquidity crunch and unavailability of labor persist to a certain degree. However, companies are also treading cautiously due to mechanisms such as safe distancing, staggered timings that have to be implemented in offices and factories.

Defense of Swiss interest cases

In the first phase of the lockdown, Swiss companies primarily from the pharma and medtech sectors contacted SECO as well as the Embassy/ Consulate in order to seek intervention to resolve time critical supply chain problems that included transport of goods within the country, exporting goods to Switzerland as well as enabling partial production. Relevant contacts with various government authorities, and with Invest India’s Business Immunity Platform, was established in order to obtain special exemptions and permissions. There are also similar request from Swiss companies regarding movement of non-essential goods. We have received 24 Swiss company cases till date.

The government has issued several notifications to regulate the export of goods in Covid-19 times. These are available on the website of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.

Movement of people

Movement of people

In this section we aim to provide travellers with the latest visa and travel related information. However, given that the situation is ever evolving, you are advised to check official sources for latest information before you plan any travel to/from India and Switzerland. You can contact the Embassy/ Consulate in your country, and check the regulations issued by the government and relevant authorities.

Restrictions on entry from Switzerland

Below considerations are relevant in the context of Swiss companies wanting to deploy employees to India but also with respect to Swiss citizens/residents traveling for business purposes to India. Businessmen from Switzerland can travel to India provided they follow all the procedures laid down by the Indian authorities, getting tested for Covid-19, following visa regulations, as well as the health and quarantine rules issued by various State governments. For details, check the Memorandum issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (dated October 21 2020). Since the beginning of January, representatives of Swiss companies have started travelling to India for urgent or time sensitive business matters.

Important visa and travel related update:

In view of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus detected in United Kingdom, the Indian government issued Standard Operating Procedure for Epidemiological Surveillance and Response on December 22, and suspended flights from UK from December 23 to 31 2020. However, after reviewing the situation, on January 30 2021, the aforementioned SOP has been elaborated and further extended till February 14 2021, or till further orders – allowing flights originating from the UK to resume in a limited manner.

In order to “minimize the risk of importation of mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2”, the Ministry of Health and Welfare issued new Guidelines for International Passengers (dated February 17 2021). The document details important guidelines that every traveller must not only read but fully comprehend before they plan any travel to India. Some of the main elements are:

  • All international arrivals have to fill the self-declaration form and upload a negative RT-PCR test report on the Air Suvidha portal. Only those passengers who are arriving due a death in the family are exempt from the pre-arrival RT-PCR test.
  • Travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating from the UK, Europe and the Middle East, will be segregated, by the airlines, into two categories;
    a) those travelling/transiting from Brazil, South Africa and the UK
    b) those travelling/transiting from any other country
  • For both aforementioned categories of passengers, it will be mandatory to get a confirmatory molecular tests upon arrival into India. Transiting passengers are allowed to take their connecting flight only after the confirmation of a negative test, which can take up 8 hours. In case of a positive result;
    a) for those travelling/transiting from Brazil, South Africa and the UK, there will be separate isolation at institutional quarantine centers coordinated by the respective State Health Authorities. Patient will be provided treatment as per protocol, and further genome sequencing for the variant strain will be done. A positive result for the new variant, will lead to continued isolation and treatment.
    b) for those travelling/transiting from any other country, health treatment will be provided as per protocol.
  • Contacts of a positive person will also be tested. Contact being defined as: co-passengers seated in the same row, 3 rows in front and 3 rows behind along with identified cabin crew. And, all the community contacts of those travellers who have tested positive.

It is recommended that travellers go over these important Guidelines in details. For ease of reference, the guidelines are also available in the form of an algorithm, and also at the website of the New Delhi International Airport.

Various Indian States have developed their own testing and quarantine guidelines for both international as well as domestic travellers. It is advisable to check the website of the relevant State government for latest updates before you travel. As an example, we are highlighting the important regulations for passengers arriving into Mumbai (Maharashtra); circular issued by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, dated March 03 2021

  • Passengers arriving/ transiting through flights from UK, Europe, Middle East, South Africa and Brazil require compulsory 7 days of institutional quarantine, in a hotel, even if their pre-boarding Covid has been negative. Those transiting will be allowed to take a connecting flight only if their RT-PCR test is negative.
  • Passengers who are found to be symptomatic upon arrival, and those test positive after their 7 days of institutional quarantine, will be shifted to hospital isolation facilities. Those found negative, will be discharged from institutional quarantine upon taking an undertaking that they will undergo mandatory home quarantine for another 7 days.
  • Contacts of those travellers who turn positive during home quarantine, or upon arrival will be treated and isolated in a same manner.

For current visa information, you can refer to website of the Embassy of India in Berne

Restrictions on entry from India

Below considerations are relevant in the context of Indian companies wanting to deploy employees to Switzerland for Swiss client projects (in particular ITC sector) but also with respect to Indian entrepreneurs/investors traveling for business purposes to Switzerland (e.g. to evaluate a set-up or to incorporate a subsidiary).

  • Anyone with a Swiss passport or a valid residence permit in Switzerland is allowed entry from any country. This means that an India based person with Swiss working contract / work permit can enter Switzerland but Indian nationals with business and tourist visas are not yet allowed entry.
  • The FOPH list of risk countries, valid from March 08 2021, does not include India. And as per the guidelines applicable from February 24 2021, those who are allowed entry from India to Switzerland, are exempt from mandatory quarantine for the time being; but they have to provide a negative PCR-test report and fill an entry form. However, if you have stayed in any of the high risk countries 10 days prior to arriving into Switzerland, you should check the quarantine rules.
  • Travelers arriving from a Country/area with an increased risk of infection must fill an entry form, show a negative PCR test upon entry, and go into a 10 day quarantine.  
  • For latest updates, check Coronavirus: Entering Switzerland
  • For more information and answers regarding entry restrictions check Coronavirus: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

For current visa information, you can refer to website of the Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi

Restrictions on mobility within the country (India)

There has been a significant resumption of domestic flights, trains, buses and other forms of public as well as private transport. However, some restrictions remain and new ones get implemented as and when the situation on the ground changes. Read news:

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