Domestic flights to be suspended as India strengthens coronavirus lockdown

Masked passengers push their luggage trolleys at NSCBI airport, in Kolkata
Domestic flights in India will stop from midnight Tuesday to March 31, as authorities strengthen a lockdown that has shuttered large parts of the country against the spread of the coronavirus.

Airlines will have to land domestic passenger flights at destinations by 11.59 pm on Tuesday, said a spokesperson for the aviation ministry on Monday, adding that the restrictions would not apply to cargo flights. The country banned international flights for a week on March 20.

India had 415 coronavirus cases and seven deaths until Monday noon but health experts have warned that a big jump could be imminent, which would overwhelm the underfunded and crumbling public health infrastructure.

India is planning a rescue package worth as much as $1.6 billion for the aviation sector, which has been battered after the coronavirus outbreak forced countries to close borders and brought air travel to a near-halt, Reuters reported last week. 

Governments the world over are scrambling to rescue airlines that have been forced to park planes and cut jobs as the virus puts the brakes on travel. Airlines may need a bailout of more than $200 billion, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates.

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