Asia

India to ground domestic passenger flights because of COVID-19

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NEW DELHI: India will ground all domestic passenger flights from on Wednesday (Mar 23) to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, the government said, as more states ordered lockdowns.

India has already banned incoming international flights and sealed most of its land borders.

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The government information bureau said only cargo flights will be allowed.

Domestic Indian carriers carried about 144 million passengers last year.

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"COVID-19 pandemic is crippling the global economy and aviation including India's once-booming aviation sector for years to come," Devesh Agarwal, the editor of the Bangalore Aviation website, told AFP.

"This is not a short-term pandemic and the outlook for Indian aviation looks tragic. The aviation sector in India is decimated right now. This is similar worldwide."

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International traffic to the financial capital Mumbai had also fallen more than 55 per cent in the month of March amid the increasing flight restrictions," a Mumbai Airport spokeswoman told AFP.

India has reported seven virus deaths from more than 400 cases, but infections have risen sharply in recent days.

Hundreds of millions of Indians _