Nepal Airlines to accept certificates issued by government labs onlyThe move follows false negative passengers causing the carrier to be banned at foreign airports.
Nepal Airlines says it will only accept negative Covid-19 test certificates issued by government labs after several false negative passengers led to its being banned at some foreign airports.
The carrier has been boarding travellers holding a printed medical certificate with a negative test result issued not more than 72 hours before departure by any accredited private lab. Doubts were raised about the veracity of such certificates after several passengers were found to be infected upon arrival at the destination.
Two weeks ago, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal raised questions about the credibility of private labs after Nepal Airlines passengers carrying Covid negative certificates tested positive at foreign airports.
Such 'false certificates' are bad for the national flag carrier as foreign governments may bar it for violating Covid-19 norms, the country’s civil aviation regulator said.
“As these cases have not stopped, the board of directors of Nepal Airlines last week passed a decision to accept only negative Covid-19 test certificates produced by government labs,” said Karishma Shrestha, spokesperson for the national flag carrier.
“The board decision has been sent to the Health Ministry for approval,” said Shrestha. “Due to the Tihar festival, the ministry has not sent its response. As soon as we get the nod from the government, we will implement it,” she said, adding that it would help Nepal Airlines to ascertain whether the test certificates issued by private labs were false or not.
“We cannot blame private labs outright, but recurring cases have made us suspect their certificates.”
Nepal Airlines was suspended from operating Kathmandu-Hong Kong flights for the third time since November 12 after another batch of its passengers tested positive for the coronavirus on arrival.
“The ban will remain until November 25,” said Shrestha.
Following the incident, the Hong Kong government also ramped up its crackdown against airlines allowing passengers from high-risk places who do not meet entry requirements to board their aircraft, which include holding a negative virus test result and a valid hotel booking.
Arrivals from outside China will also have to quarantine at hotels, rather than in their homes, starting November 13, as announced previously.
Passengers should book for their post-arrival Covid-19 test at the airport in Hong Kong and provide a specimen. They receive their test results via SMS and email after a few hours; and if the test result is negative, a green QR code will be received.
They need to present the green QR code to staff at the exit of the waiting area, complete immigration procedures and proceed to the Arrivals Hall.
On October 3, six passengers on a Nepal Airlines flight to Hong Kong tested positive upon arrival. The carrier was issued a two-week suspension for violating Covid-19 norms by Hong Kong authorities.
Again on October 22, nine Nepal Airlines passengers, who had twice tested negative during their quarantine period, were among the 11 new Covid-19 cases detected in Hong Kong. Authorities banned the carrier yet again, just four days after it had completed a two-week suspension on November 4.
Nepal Airlines said that airports in the United Arab Emirates and Japan had also raised concern over the truthfulness of certification issued for passengers from Nepal.
Dubai has changed its Covid‑19 PCR test requirements. Tourists must take two Covid‑19 PCR tests: one before departure with a validity of 96 hours from the date of the test, and a second test upon arrival in Dubai.
“Nepal Airlines may be blameless as it does not conduct the tests, and relies on the certificates produced by the passengers before boarding. But if such cases are not properly monitored, it could spell disaster as it may tarnish Nepal's reputation abroad,” Rajan Pokhrel, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said in a recent interview with the Post.
Pokhrel said that they had asked the government to assign dedicated and authorised testing labs for airline passengers.
According to reports, both India and Nepal are on Hong Kong’s list of high-risk countries for Covid-19. Those flying in from such places are required to test negative for Covid-19 before departure, and to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival in the city. There are 11 other nations on the list.
On September 1, the government okayed resumption of regular international passenger flights after a five-month ban to prevent the spread of the virus.