KATHMANDU, Sept 2: The government has formally resumed regular flights to and from Nepal after a hiatus of over five months. While a regular flight of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) left for Narita Tuesday midnight, a Malindo Airlines flight from Malaysia landed at Tribhuvan International Airport on Wednesday.
The government had decided to suspend all international flights to and from Nepal on March 23 amid rising cases of COVID-19 in the country. Since then, the government operated a number of chartered flights to evacuate Nepali migrant workers stranded in different countries, but regular flights were suspended until Tuesday midnight.
A total of 55,410 people have been repatriated from different countries after the COVID-19 pandemic put them in a difficult position abroad. But since there are complaints that a large number of needy people are unable to return home, a recent cabinet meeting made a decision to resume a limited number of regular flights from September 1 observing a number of safety precautions since the COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the country. Here are the details of the arrangements made by the government to resume regular international flights to and from Nepal.
Army to continue with the management of repatriated passengers
The Nepal Army (NA) will continue with the management of repatriated passengers upon their arrival in Nepal. Those arriving in Nepal through the international flights will be taken directly to holding centers developed by the government before sending them to the designated provinces.
NA personnel have been helping the government to transport those arriving Nepal to the holding centers in Kathmandu and then to their designated provinces right since the government started repatriation flights in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak. “The passengers who enter Nepal either through regular commercial flights or charter flights will be sent to the holding center as before,” said Deo Chandra Lal Karna, spokesperson at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu. “The officials concerned there will determine whether the passengers should be sent to their homes directly or to quarantines.”
800 people to be allowed to enter Nepal daily
A maximum of 800 passengers can enter Nepal via air route in a day as per the decision taken by the cabinet meeting on Sunday. The government decided to increase the number by 300 as the number of passengers international airlines were allowed to bring in Nepal was earlier set maximum 500 a day.
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation will manage the number of flights and passengers on the basis of the availability of hotel quarantines in Kathmandu Valley. Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai has said that the number will be gradually increased after analyzing the situation after a certain period of time.
59 regular and 29 charter flights to be operated in a month
The government has permitted international airlines to operate 59 regular scheduled commercial flights starting Wednesday whereas 29 charter flights will be operated to countries where PCR tests are not easily accessible. Regular flights will be carried out to countries where PCR tests are easily accessible. And for countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar where PCR test is not easily accessible, diplomatic missions will coordinate with the ministry to arrange charter flights.
PCR negative report mandatory before boarding the aircraft
The airlines operating flights to Nepal are allowed to bring passengers only those who are able to produce PCR negative reports issued within 72 hours of the flight. Airlines representatives can provide boarding passes after the passengers flying with them provide the PCR negative report.
All the passengers boarding the regular commercial flights need to produce an RT-PCR negative report along with the printed copy of an online form or its barcode. The government has made an online form available on the website of COVID-19 Crisis Management Center. If the passenger does not have it, the airlines can facilitate passengers for the same before boarding the aircraft.
Hotel quarantine mandatory for passengers who do not have PCR report
The government has made hotel quarantine mandatory for passengers who do not have a PCR test report. As many Nepali migrant workers from countries where PCR tests are not easily accessible are desperately waiting to return home as they have already lost their jobs, the government has allowed flights to operate on condition that all those returning home are ready to stay in hotel quarantine for at least a week.
They can head to their homes after their PCR test report confirms that they are not infected with the virus. The COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (DCCMC) has issued a list of hotels that can be used as quarantine upon their arrival in Kathmandu.
In case of those holding PCR negative reports, the government has made it mandatory for them to stay in home quarantine for 14 days. Local level COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (LCCMC) will monitor such passengers whether they have fully complied with the government’s health protocols. Such passengers will have to inform the local level and LCCMC about their health condition on a regular basis.
Passengers without PRC test report to be flown in separate aircraft
The airlines cannot bring passengers who have done PCR tests and those who have not yet in the same aircraft. If any airline brings both types of passengers in the same flight, the airline concerned will be responsible for meeting all the expenses of the passengers onboard to undergo PCR test and stay in hotel quarantines. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) will take action against airlines that violate this rule.
NRNs allowed to fly Nepal in case of family emergencies
Non-resident Nepalis (NRNs) are allowed to come to Nepal at the recommendations of Nepal’s diplomatic missions in their respective countries. Nepali missions will recommend the names of NRNs if a member of his family in Nepal dies or if s/he has to visit Nepal for serious medical treatment of any of his family members. They will be permitted to enter Nepal after the family emergency that the applicant has mentioned is confirmed.
ID card must for employees of diplomatic missions, development organizations
The regular commercial flights can carry home Nepali nationals, employees and their family members of diplomatic missions, international development organization, and the United Nations and its agencies in Nepal. Such foreign nationals should produce identity cards issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Consular Services and the passport while obtaining their boarding passes.
If one does not have any such identity card, the identity card issued by their respective organization can be taken as reference. If any individual is coming to Nepal for the first time in Nepal as representative of such organizations, the airlines have been requested to examine his/her appointment letter. As the government has suspended on-arrival visas, their visas will be taken care of as per the directive issued by the Department of Immigration.
International students studying in Nepal can come for examinations
International students, who are required to come to Nepal for taking examinations, will also be allowed to enter Nepal if their teachers and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology verify the request. Such students need to follow all the health protocols prepared by the government and produce PCR negative test reports issued within 72 hours before boarding the aircraft.
All those who enter Nepal via air route should follow the safety criteria set by the Ministry of Health and Population. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has prepared a guideline for airlines and the airport while operating their services. “We have been handling more passengers than the actual limit set by the government,” said TIA Spokesperson Karna.
TIA officials said they are also preparing to operate domestic flights. The MoCTCA, however, has said that it can suspend flights with or without prior notice if the government decides to suspend the regular commercial flights in view of the rising cases of COVID-19.