Nepal resumes international flights but extends tourist ban

Kathmandu, Sep 1 (efe-epa).- Nepal on Tuesday resumed international flights after a five-month ban to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, allowing arrival and departures from its sole international airport in Kathmandu, although travel related to tourism – an important sector for the local economy – continues to be restricted.

In the initial phase of the flights, only Nepalese citizens, diplomats and officials of international bodies such as the United Nations would be allowed to fly in and out from the country, while the resumption of tourism has been postponed once again due to rising Covid-19 cases.

“The measures that we have taken to restrict foreign tourists are to ensure that we completely limit the risk of transmission of this virus,” Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint secretary at the tourism ministry, told EFE.

The daily number of arrivals have been limited to 800 people, he added.

The passengers permitted to travel as per the official regulations will be allowed to use regular and chartered flights to and from Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, the United States, Canada and Europe, countries where RT-PCR Covid-19 tests are easily available.

Although authorities had originally announced the resumption of flights from Aug. 17 and authorized tourist operators to book visitors’ reservations for the autumn season, the decision was reversed as cases of the disease spiked in the country once again.

According to the ministry of health, Nepal had registered a total of 40,529 coronavirus cases by Tuesday, including more than 1,000 fresh infections within the last 24 hours, and 239 deaths.

The president of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators, Ashok Pokhrel, told EFE that the government’s decision to restrict tourists will further hit the industry, which was already “on the brink of collapse.”

Pokhrel urged the government to prepare an emergency plan to save more than a million jobs in the tourist sector that are in the danger of being lost, some of them permanently.

A study commissioned by the UN Development Program in Nepal, titled the “Rapid Assessment of the Social and Economic Impacts of Covid-19 pandemic,” projected that tourism receipts in Nepal could fall by 60 percent in 2020, resulting in a loss of foreign currency earnings worth $400 million.

Similarly, a survey conducted by Nepal’s central bank’s showed that the impact of the pandemic and a four-month-long lockdown has forced the hotel and restaurant industry to lay off around 40 percent of its employees. EFE-EPA


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