By Binod Prasad Adhikari
Kathmandu [Nepal], May 6 (ANI): Nepal is set to suspend international flights from midnight on May 6 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The international terminal of Nepal's Tribhuwan International Airport on Wednesday afternoon remained packed with travelers who wanted to fly out before the airport is closed.
On Sunday, a cabinet meeting had decided to stop international flights amid surging cases of COVID-19 in the Himalayan nation.
"I actually had my bookings for 12th of this month, the decision by the government to close the airport has prompted me to take the flight for today (5th May). Some flights of others also might have got cancelled due to various reasons. I am happy that I got to get out early without much hassle," Suraj Chaulagain, one of the travelers who reached the airport to catch a flight to Romania, told ANI.
Long queues were seen at various check-in-counters outside the terminal of the International Airport as Nepali as well as foreigners tried to fly out of the country amid uncertainty when the flights would be back to schedule.
Nepal has made it mandatory to produce a Real-Time- Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) negative test report conducted 72 hours before boarding the flight.
"We were asked to undergo a PCR test 72 hours prior to the flight which is a good step as it would give us added assurance and the social distancing apart from other security and safety measures," Ishwor Gurung, another outbound passenger who arrived at the airport on Wednesday, told ANI.
The flow of people flying to India, Gulf countries, Europe and American countries was high on Wednesday as per the display at the terminal to show the flight status.
Since May 3, Nepal has banned all domestic flights while international flights would be grounded from Wednesday midnight until May 14 with the possibility of extension.
Earlier this week, the Civil Aviation Authority in a release stated that charter flights and two flights from New Delhi in a week would be exempted because of the air bubble scheme between the countries.
With the onset of major tourism season in the Himalayan nation, hundreds of climbers are vying to scale the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest. Only those attempting to climb Everest are now left behind while other foreign tourists are flying out.
Nepal also has made it mandatory for everyone arriving in the country through charter or under the air bubble scheme to mandatorily undergo 10 days quarantine in hotels. All travelers will have to produce a negative polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) result done within 72 hours prior to departure for entry into Nepal.
Paused for a year in 2020, Nepal this year has issued record-high permits to scale Mount Everest. As per the data of the Department of Tourism that oversees and grants permits for expeditions, a total of 408 members, including 93 women, from 43 teams have received permission for Mt Everest.
It is said that the government received a total of NPR 714.8 million in royalties from the climbers. Mt Everest alone contributed NPR 660 in royalty to the state coffer as the royalty from the expeditions for this spring season. (ANI)