Nepal will resume domestic and international flight operations starting from August 17, over four months after they were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 20, the government had banned all passengers, including Nepalis, from entering the country. Four days later, it imposed a nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, told The Kathmandu Post that a Cabinet meeting on Monday decided to allow both international and domestic flights to resume operations from August 17, as there "has been a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country".
"All flights will be operated by following special health and safety protocols," Tumbahangphe said. Nepal on Monday reported 186 new cases of COVID-19, taking the number of infections to 17,844, with 40 deaths so far. The government says the decision to resume flights was taken as some countries have already started to lift the coronavirus restrictions, the report said.
"There are still some countries that are imposing entry restrictions. We will prepare reports on the countries where flights are not restricted and allow them to enter the country accordingly. We will develop protocols and other required measures for the incoming flights," said Buddhi Sagar Lamichhane, joint-secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry.
With the border closed and internal travel prohibited for nearly four months now, the once-booming tourism sector in Nepal is on the verge of a collapse, and it is not likely to recover any time soon, say industry insiders.
"We have to do homework and hold extensive discussions with health professionals, the government and the industry players on how to build confidence of foreign tour operators and tourists as well. We have to be well prepared to handle the tourists, Yogendra Sakya, a travel trade entrepreneur, was quoted as saying by The Kathmandu Post.
In such a difficult scenario, it's all about survival. Only if we survive now, can we move ahead for revival," Sakya said. Tourism is one of the major foreign currency earners for Nepal. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the travel and tourism's total contribution to the country's gross domestic product stood at 7.9 per cent in 2018.