Government allows limited domestic flights to resumeThe Cabinet has decided to open up a number of international sectors for the convenience of Nepali migrant workers.
The government has freed domestic airlines to operate half the number of flights they were conducting before Covid, and opened up several international routes as it moved to loosen the lockdown and get the economy moving.
On Monday, the cabinet decided to lift the virus restrictions that had kept the country paralysed for nearly two months following a drop in the caseload, officials said.
“We have received a copy of the cabinet decision. We will hold discussions on this matter on Wednesday to fix the operation date,” Tourism Joint Secretary Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane told the Post.
According to officials, domestic services may resume from Sunday.
“The decision to increase flight frequencies and open suspended routes will also facilitate the movement of Nepali migrant workers,” said Lamichhane, who looks after aviation affairs at the Tourism Ministry.
The Foreign Employment Board said the exact number of Nepali workers stuck abroad was not known, but it is estimated that 1,500-2,000 persons are waiting to return home from each of the popular labour destination countries.
They are mostly those workers whose contracts or visas have expired, according to the board, the government agency responsible for looking after the welfare of migrant workers.
More flights will also help to bring back the bodies of dead migrant workers that have remained piled up in many destination countries.
According to board officials, around 70 to 80 bodies of Nepali workers are stranded in different destination countries, although some bodies have been repatriated after the resumption of limited flights.
Birendra Bahadur Basnet, managing director of Buddha Air, Nepal’s leading private airline, welcomed the government decision saying that the resumption of flights would boost business confidence.
According to him, limiting frequencies to 50 percent of pre-Covid levels will allow an interval of more than 10 minutes between flights, thus reducing crowds at the airports. During normal times, a domestic flight takes off every two minutes.
“Like during last year’s lockdown, we are committed to abiding by the government’s strict health safety protocols,” said Basnet.
Except for two weekly flights on the Kathmandu-Delhi sector, Nepal decided to halt all domestic flights from midnight of May 3, and all international flights from midnight of May 6 as the virus looked like spreading out of control.
The cabinet has permitted two extra flights on the Kathmandu-Doha-Kathmandu route—two for Nepal Airlines and two for airlines based in Qatar—for a total of four weekly flights.
The frequency on the Kathmandu-Istanbul route has been increased by one flight to two weekly. Turkish Airlines, the only carrier connecting Nepal and Europe, will be operating the two services, said Lamichhane.
The two flights on the Kathmandu-New Delhi route, one for Nepal Airlines and one for Air India under an air bubble arrangement, remain unchanged.
The cabinet has decided to open up a number of sectors for the convenience of Nepali migrant workers.
According to Monday’s decision, four weekly flights have been allowed on the Kathmandu-Dubai-Kathmandu sector, two for Nepali carriers and two for carriers in Dubai. Likewise, four weekly flights have been approved on the Kathmandu-Kuala Lumpur route, Nepali and Malaysian carriers operating two services each.
Two flights have been allowed on the Kathmandu-Dammam sector for Nepali carriers and two flights have been permitted on the Kathmandu-Kuwait City route for airlines of Kuwait.
Likewise, one flight a week has been approved for airlines on the Oman-Kathmandu sector, and one weekly flight has been permitted for South Korean carriers on the Seoul-Kathmandu route.
According to Lamichhane, Nepal Airlines has been permitted to fly once a week on the Kathmandu-Tokyo sector.
Nepal has allowed services to two Chinese cities. According to the cabinet decision, Nepali and Chinese carriers will conduct one flight each on the Kathmandu-Chengdu route.
Similarly, two extra flights have been approved on the Kathmandu-Guangzhou sector, Nepali and Chinese airlines operating one flight each.
The prohibitory orders in place in the three districts of Kathmandu Valley since April 29 have been extended till June 28 with a slight relaxation of the restrictions—automobiles will be allowed on the streets according to the odd-even number rule, and businesses will be permitted to operate on alternate days.
A meeting of the valley’s three chief district officers on Sunday announced the decision to loosen up the lockdown rules starting Tuesday, considering the declining cases of Covid-19 infections.
Nepal on Tuesday reported 3,703 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide infection tally to 626,343.
Similarly, 819 people tested positive in a total of 4,709 antigen tests, according to the Health Ministry.