White House Banning Travel from India amid Deadly COVID Second Wave
The White House is implementing a travel ban from India to the U.S. amid India's current surge in new COVID-19 cases, effective "12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on May 4, 2021," according to the Biden administration's proclamation made Friday.
Vice President Kamala Harris – who is Black and South Asian with Indian descent – discussed the travel ban and the White House's continued promise to aid India amid the crisis.
"It is important to note, as I said earlier, that we have a responsibility as the United States in particular, as it relates to the people that we have partnered with over the years, to step up when people are in a time of need," Harris said in a statement Friday.
The vice president – who currently has family members living in India – continued, "And as it relates to the people of India, we have long standing decades old relationship with India, with the Indian people, in particular around public health issues."
She also revealed that the U.S. will be sending supplies, including oxygen, to India Friday night "with an expectation that that will provide some level of relief."
"On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Administration will restrict travel from India. The policy was implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Friday regarding the ban.
President Joe Biden was advised by medical experts, the COVID-19 Response Team and National Security personnel across the U.S. Government to implement the upcoming travel ban, according to the administration.
The restrictions don't apply to American citizens or lawful permanent residents as well as their spouses or children under 21.
Other exemptions include certain foreign official/diplomatic travel and crew members, journalists, students, certain academics, immigrants, fiancés, those traveling for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, national security and those providing vital support for critical infrastructure, according to the administration.
Those exempt from the travel ban still have to follow travel guidelines administered by the CDC.
In the proclamation signed by Biden Friday, it says India "accounts for over one-third of new global cases."
As of Friday evening, India's Ministry of Health reports at least 208,330 deaths in the country. Additionally, the Associated Press reported that India — which is the second-most populated country in the world — continues to set daily records of new COVID infections.
Experts say the actual number of COVID cases could be 30 times higher than what's been reported, according to CNN.
Biden announced Sunday that the U.S. will join several European countries in sending aid to India. The U.S. will provide financial assistance and raw materials for vaccines.
"Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need," Biden wrote Sunday on Twitter.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Hospitals, graveyards and crematoriums have become overwhelmed with new cases and deaths in heavily populated areas of India. As life-saving oxygen is in short supply, some patients have died in the streets while searching for a hospital. Meanwhile, crematoriums have had to increase their funeral pyres. In the city of Bhopal, some have had to increase their capacity from 12 pyres to 50, according to the Washington Post.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.