Efforts on to quarantine evacuees in hotels across countryMinistry of Tourism negotiating rates with the hotels association to accommodate foreign returnees who can afford to foot their own bills.
As Nepal moves ahead with the biggest evacuation of citizens from abroad in its history, efforts have been ramped up to mass quarantine returnees in hotels across the country.
The government, which started bringing Nepalis home from abroad formally on Friday, has also planned to accommodate evacuees, who can afford to pay the bill, in hotels. Those who can’t afford to stay in hotels will be kept at party palaces and hostels, according to the Ministry of Tourism officials.
“The Ministry of Tourism has been negotiating with the hotel association regarding the rates,” said Narayan Prasad Bidari, secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, also a member of the coronavirus prevention and control committee. He said that evacuees will be placed in holding centres before they are sent to quarantine.
For hoteliers, the move is expected to bring at least 20,000 workers back into the jobs, said Binayak Shah, vice president of the Hotel Association of Nepal.
“This is based on the expectation that the government will use 10,000 rooms for quarantine purposes,” he said, adding that it will also increase the demand for food, vegetables and dairy and farmers will also benefit. The star-rated and tourist standard hotels can provide more than 40,000 beds, according to the tourism ministry statistics.
Hoteliers had earlier quoted hefty rates of upto Rs 14,000 for a room night at a four-star hotel.
But they decided to revise the rates following the government’s request.
The association sent a revised tariff list to the tourism ministry on Thursday.
As per the list, the price of a four-star hotel is Rs 8,000 per room per night and Rs 5,500 per person for twin sharing.
Similarly, for three-star hotels, the proposed rate is Rs 6,000 per room per night and Rs 5,000 per person for twin sharing. For two-star hotels, the tariff has been proposed at Rs 5,000 per person and Rs 3,500 per person for twin sharing.
The hotel association has proposed Rs 4,000 per room per night for one-star properties and Rs 2,500 per night per person for twin sharing. Similarly, the price for tourist-standard hotels has been quoted at Rs 3,000 per person and Rs 2,000 per person for twin sharing. The association has not released rates for five-star properties. All prices are inclusive of service tax and other taxes.
Hotels will provide food and snacks four times a day. The packages also include packaged water, tea, coffee and facilities such as WiFi and TV. Shah said that they have proposed providing hotels in Nagarkot, Dhulikhel, Chitwan, Pokhara and Bhairahawa under the first phase.
According to industry insiders, hundreds of evacuees will be kept in hotels for at least 14 days. According to Shah, hotel workers will have to work for at least seven days and they would be required to remain in quarantine for the next seven days, as per the operational guidelines.
In countries such as the US, UK, Spain and India, all of which are bracing for surges in Covid-19 patients, governments have been working with hotels to transform their buildings into makeshift care facilities or quarantine centers.
On April 17, Nepal's Supreme Court had ordered the government to repatriate vulnerable migrant workers stranded abroad during the coronavirus crisis after the country barred its own citizens from returning home.
Up to 2.6 million Nepali migrants are estimated to be working in the Gulf, Malaysia and Korea and labour rights activists say many have lost their jobs due to coronavirus lockdowns in those countries.
The government banned them from returning home for fear they could spread the virus in a country that has so far registered 2,912 cases and 11 deaths.
Nepal’s labour migration sector grapples with its biggest crisis ever, with nearly one million Nepali migrant workers likely to return home in the near future, according to the government estimate.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has taken away Nepali migrant workers’ jobs in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia—Nepal’s top labour destination countries—making them live penniless and forcing them to wait for the government to take them home.
“Nearly 25 percent of the estimated 3 million Nepali workers abroad are likely to return home,” said Sujit Kumar Shreshta, general secretary of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, a grouping of agencies outsourcing workers abroad, recently told the Post.
He said there are two reasons why such a large number of workers are likely to return home. First, “about 60 percent of Nepali workers who migrated two years ago are likely to return because their work tenure is over.” Second, “a large number of workers will return after losing their jobs to the pandemic.
“Now as construction work is completely halted, they have lost their jobs,” he said.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of July 7, 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. Covid-19 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 111,655,612 people with 538,565 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 719,448 with 20,174 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 231,818 confirmed cases with 4,762 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 15,964 cases with 35 deaths.
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.