Despite a significant number of rescues, 300 trekkers remain stranded in various trekking routesAs Nepal remains under lockdown, many trekkers have been unable to return to Kathmandu.
About 300 foreigners have been stranded along various trekking routes ever since the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to control the possible spread of Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Khum Bahadur Subedi, president of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, said that the foreigners had obtained trekking permits long before the government prohibited movement across the country.
“We have estimated that there are around 300 trekkers in different parts of the country,” Subedi told the Post.
According to him, about 98 trekkers are in the Everest region, 50 in and around Jomsom, 30 in the Annapurna region and 19 in Sankhuwasabha. Around 18 trekkers are stranded in Bob Marley Hotel in Muktinath.
Sixty trekkers were rescued from Jomsom on Wednesday. They are being transported to Kathmandu on two buses with the help of the local government, said Subedi.
“Similarly, 10 trekekrs were rescued from Arughat in the Manaslu region on Wednesday,” he said.
The government had stopped issuing trekking permits on March 20 as part of the preliminary measures to control the flow of tourists into the country amid coronavirus scare. After suspending on-arrival visas and flights from certain countries and regions and calling off all spring expeditions, including to the Everest, on March 12, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday announced that all flights were cancelled as the Covid-19 pandemic started taking a toll on Europe, America and India.
Hours after the second Covid-19 case was confirmed on a 19-year-old student who returned from France via Qatar, the government on Monday decided to enforce a complete lockdown for a week, until March 31. The decision has stranded the foreigners who had been travelling or trekking in Nepal.
Subedi said all stranded trekkers will eventually be airlifted or transported to Kathmandu.
Nepal receives nearly 1.2 million tourists annually and around 300,000 of them trek to various destinations. The most popular trekking trail in the country is the Annapurna circuit, followed by the Everest region.
Bal Krishna Pandit, operation manager of Air Dynasty Heli Service, said they rescued four trekkers from the Everest region and another four from Dolpa on Wednesday.
“We obtained permits to conduct rescue operations in the Everest region on Thursday,” he said.
A number of other helicopter companies also conducted rescue operations in different parts of the country on Wednesday.
An official from one of these companies told the Post that the French government was flying in a charter plane this week to Kathmandu to fly back its stranded citizens.
On Wednesday, Australian Ambassador to Nepal Pete Budd had also tweeted that the embassy was trying to negotiate a commercial flight from Kathmandu to Sydney.
“If successful, there may be little advance notice. We urge all Australians to make their way to Kathmandu as quickly as possible,” he said in the tweet.
Pratap Jung Pandey, managing director of Kailash Helicopter Service, said a large number of requests were coming from different agencies for rescue operations.
Due to long procedures and hassles to obtain flying permits, the company has not been able to respond to these requests promptly, he added.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.