South Asia

Nepal Imposes Flight Restrictions as COVID-19 Cases Surge

The Himalayan nation has been recording over 7,000 new cases every day for the past few days.

Kathmandu: The second wave of coronavirus infections has been surging in Nepal and many people are blaming travellers from India and several other countries and the government’s inability to handle the pandemic.

In response to public fury, the government of Nepal has decided to stop all domestic flights from Monday midnight and international flights from Wednesday midnight in order to curb the further spread of COVID-19.

The cabinet meeting held on Sunday decided to stop flights until May 14, as per the recommendations made by the central COVID-19 crisis management centre. However, chartered flights of both domestic and international airlines are allowed to operate during the suspension period.

“As coronavirus cases continue to rise, keeping that in mind, the government has decided to ban all domestic and international flights till May 14, and only allow chartered flights,” government spokesperson and communication minister Parvat Gurung said.

Nepal has also made it mandatory for international travellers arriving in the country to undergo quarantine. Foreigners flying to Nepal are subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine in hotels upon arrival. A negative polymerase chain reaction test result obtained within 72 hours prior to departure from the country of origin is required for entry into the Himalayan country.

Several people from India, which is ravaged by the second wave of the pandemic, have entered Nepal by air and land routes recently. People from India used Nepal’s transit to fly to countries like Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong that have banned direct flights from India. These countries have ramped up their efforts to contain the surge of the coronavirus.

Also read: South Asian Countries Urged to Cooperate in Fight Against COVID-19

In the past two months, the number of Indians flying from India’s capital, New Delhi, to Kathmandu has almost doubled. According to reports, 8,727 Indians arrived in Kathmandu between April 1 and April 18, while 4,763 Indians entered the country in February. Similarly, many migrant Nepali workers returned home as coronavirus cases surged in India.

The Nepali government has already stopped public transport in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19. It has been struggling to check the spread of the virus as experts warn that cases may rise further in the coming days. They also fear that several people in Nepal may have already caught the mutant virus that hit neighbouring India. As India and Nepal have open borders, it has also led to a rise in the number of cases.

Nepal on Sunday, May 2, reported the highest single-day spike of coronavirus cases. The Himalayan country recorded 7,137 new cases with 27 new COVID-19-related cases. The coronavirus cases have crossed over three lakh and related fatalities are over 3,000.

Brabim Karki is the author of Mayur Albatross and Osin Fisher. He has previously written for The IndependentThe DiplomatThe Hill TimesAsia Pacific Daily and The Quint.