The Government of Nepal resolved on Thursday to allow foreign countries to repatriate their citizens from the country, of whom around 300 were trapped on different hiking trails, after the confinement by the Covid-19 that started on Tuesday and that prevented them return to Kathmandu.
The decision was made by the high-level government committee created to address issues related to the coronavirus pandemic and will allow foreign embassies to charter charter flights to repatriate their citizens.
“We have been informed that the German embassy has decided to charter two Qatar Airways flights from Doha to remove their nationals on Friday and Saturday,” Sudhan Subedi, an official with the Nepal Tourism Department, told Efe.
He explained that the department has created a crisis cabinet to deal with the issue of stranded tourists in the country and announced that the diplomatic missions of France, Britain and Australia are also planning to charter repatriation flights.
This is the case in Australia, as announced by his ambassador to Nepal, Pete Budd, on his Twitter account on Wednesday, where he reported that his embassy “is trying to negotiate a commercial flight from Kathmandu to Sydney.”
The American legation, for its part, reported on Thursday on its website that it is already negotiating a permit from the authorities to carry out the repatriation of its citizens.
Among the trapped tourists there are about 300 hikers who could not leave the hiking routes they were on at the time the confinement was decreed, which began on Tuesday and prevented them from returning to the capital.
Of these, about 98 are in the Everest region, fifty in the Jomsom area (north-central); thirty in the region of Mount Annapurna (center) and 19 in Sankhuwasabha (east), according to Efe detailed by the president of the Association of Hiking Agencies of Nepal, Khum Bahadur Subedi. He added that 18 other hikers are trapped at the Bob Marley Hotel in the city of Muktinath in the Annapurna region.
“These foreigners had obtained hiking permits long before the government banned the movement of people across the country,” he said.
He specified that almost all those caught are from European countries, especially France, Germany and Spain. “We are coordinating with the respective embassies in Kathmandu to rescue all the stranded hikers. They will finally be taken to Kathmandu by air,” Subedi said.
According to him, about 60 tourists were rescued from Jomsom on Wednesday with the collaboration of the local government, who were taken to the capital in two buses. In addition, another ten were rescued from the Arugat area in the Manaslu region (center).
Four other hikers were also rescued on Wednesday from the Everest region and another similar group from Dolpa (west), in operations carried out with helicopters, Bal Krishna Pandit, helicopter operations manager of the local company Air Dinasty, told Efe.
The Nepalese government stopped issuing hiking permits on March 20 as a measure to control the flow of tourists and prevent an increase in coronavirus cases in the country, which increased to three positives on Wednesday.
On March 12, the government temporarily stopped issuing tourist visas from all countries and banned all spring mountaineering expeditions, including ascents to Everest.