Kathmandu, Dec 13 (efe-epa).- Nepal on Sunday reopened its borders to all foreign tourists with immediate effect, almost 10 months after authorities completely sealed off the Himalayan country because of the coronavirus.
The director of the Immigration Department, Ramesh Kumar, told Efe that Nepalese diplomatic missions are now reissuing visas, although for the time being the reopening only applies to tourists arriving in the country by plane.
The entry to and exit from Nepal through its land borders will remain closed until further notice, except in exceptional cases that have government approval, Kumar said.
“All foreigners should obtain a visa from the Nepalese embassy, or a letter of prior approval from the relevant ministry to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport in Kathmandu,” he added.
Nepal, which has reported a total of 248,423 cases of coronavirus and 1,698 deaths, requires arriving travelers to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to their arrival.
They are also required to go into quarantine for seven days in a hotel and pass a second test before traveling in the rest of the country.
On March 12, one day after the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus pandemic, the government stopped issuing visas upon arrival in the country for tourists and suspended all mountaineering expeditions, including those on Mount Everest.
International flights were suspended on March 20 and, just four days later, the country ordered a lockdown to slow the progress of the pandemic, which was lifted in late July.
The government did allow foreign tourists to go trekking on October 17, a decision that was celebrated by a tourism industry that has seen its revenues reduced to zero because of the pandemic.
The industry contributes to nearly 8 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product, according to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and directly or indirectly supports more than one million jobs.