International flights to resume from September 1, but tourists won't be allowedNepalis and diplomats will be allowed to take chartered and regular commercial flights to Nepal with the number of daily arrivals capped at 500, while Nepalis can also fly out from that date.
Tika R Pradhan & Sangam Prasain
The government has decided to resume chartered and regular passenger flights from September 1. However, only Nepalis and representatives of diplomatic missions, the United Nations and development partners will be allowed to fly into Nepal, with restrictions on foreign tourists until further notice, according to a Cabinet decision which was made public on Friday.
The daily arrivals, too, have been capped at 500 individuals.
Minister for Communication and Information Technology Yubaraj Khatiwada, also the government spokesperson, said other than tourists, listed individuals will be allowed to come to Nepal via regular and chartered flights from Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States, Canada and European countries where RT-PCR tests are easily available.
People, including Nepalis, won’t be allowed to take flights to Nepal from countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar where PCR tests are not easily available, according to Khatiwada. “Nepalis stranded in these countries could be brought home on chartered flights,” said Khatiwada.
Though the government said on July 20 that international and domestic flights will resume starting August 17, and asked the travel and tourism industry to take bookings for the autumn season accordingly, it revised its decision on July 21 in the wake of the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country.
The government had also halted chartered flights, putting Nepali workers ready to return home in limbo. The new decisions, however, will provide some respite for migrant workers.
The government has also no immediate plan to allow domestic flights as there are prohibitory orders in Kathmandu Valley and dozens of other districts, according to Mahendra Guragain, secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, who is also the member secretary of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre.
According to Khatiwada, those coming to Nepal must produce a RT-PCR test report conducted in the last 72 hours, proof of advance booking of hotels for seven days and produce a barcode or print copy of the form they need to fill up by accessing from the Covid Crisis Management Centre website (ccmc.gov.np).
“After completing seven days in quarantine, they have to give in writing that they would spend another 14 days in home quarantine,” said Khatiwada.
Airlines will have to collect the expenses of hotel quarantine from their passengers and ensure that they pay the respective hotels as per the bookings. However, if they violate any rules and bring people having no PCR tests, the concerned airline will have to bear all the quarantine expenses of all their passengers, according to the Cabinet decision.
“The government will take legal action if they break the rules,” said Khatiwada.
The government said it will set up an Integrated Quarantine Management Committee led by the home secretary. The committee includes officials from Health and Federal Affairs and Local Development ministries, director general of the Department of Urban Development, and chief district officers of the Kathmandu valley as members. The committee will manage integrated quarantine facilities in Kathmandu Valley.
Guragain said that an integrated facility is being set up to quarantine migrant workers arriving every day at one place in the Valley so that it is easier for the authorities to manage them.
PCR tests of the returning Nepalis will be conducted within five days of their arrival and they will be sent home after seven days.
The Health Ministry will manage 6,000 isolation beds in the Valley at state-run as well as private, community and teaching hospitals and health institutes, if necessary, and the number of beds would be increased as needed, according to Khatiwada.
Outside the Valley, provincial governments will arrange for isolation beds in coordination with the Provincial Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre and District Covid-19 Crisis Management Centres.
The committee will also manage integrated quarantine facilities that will house migrant workers who return on repatriation flights. All their necessary expenses would be borne from the Foreign Employment Welfare Fund, according to the Cabinet decision.
All quarantine expenses of repatriated migrant workers would be borne from the Welfare Fund on the recommendation of District Covid-19 Crisis Management Centres. In the case of other stranded Nepalis, who are repatriated, the expenses of living in the integrated quarantine would be borne from the Coronavirus Fund at the recommendation of the District Crisis Management Centres.
Returning Nepalis, other than migrant workers, with no or partial symptoms and those who wish to stay in home isolation can do so but under the monitoring of an institution the Health Ministry designates and they must follow all necessary health and safety protocols. Only those with Covid-19 symptoms would be admitted to designated hospitals for treatment.
The government has also decided to use all the facilities of private hospitals and their resources, non-profit community hospitals and health academies for the treatment of symptomatic Covid-19 patients. Any hospital can be declared a Covid hospital, according to minister Khatiwada.
The government will take necessary legal action if any individual or hospital refuses to cooperate, said Khatiwada.
After flights resume on September 1, anyone willing to fly out will be allowed to travel.
“People wanting to go abroad can go from September 1, but they should make all the necessary arrangements including visas, tests, entry to the destination country and their stay there by themselves,” said Secretary Mahendra Guragain.