KATHMANDU, MAY 02
With the country under the grips of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has decided to suspend all domestic flights from midnight tomorrow.
The Cabinet meeting held today took the decision to halt all domestic flights from midnight tomorrow as the country today recorded highest number of COVID positive cases since the start of the pandemic.
Even earlier, the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) had recommended stopping all domestic flights.
Earlier today, Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and the airline operators had agreed to operate one flight in each 20-minute destinations in compliance with flight safety and health standards. Accordingly, it had been decided to operate only 35 daily flights.
Meanwhile, towards the international sector, Hong Kong and Singapore have banned flights from Nepal.
As per the statement issued on April 29 by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong has banned flights from Nepal with effective from Saturday.
"All the passenger flights from Nepal will be prohibited from May 1 and Nepal will also be specified as an extremely high-risk place under the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap 599H)," reads the statement.
Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has been operating three flights a week to Hong Kong. Meanwhile NAC has stated that they have not received any formal notice so far regarding flight ban. When the decision to ban the flight is made public, the corporation will do the same, stated the NAC.
Earlier, Hong Kong had barred air travel from India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Due to the new variant of coronavirus spreading in South Asia, many countries are gradually tightening their travel restrictions through this region.
Hong Kong has a rule that flights can be suspended for two weeks if at least five or more people from a single destination test positive for the coronavirus. Even during the previous wave, Nepal Airlines' flights to Hong Kong had been suspended several times for the same reason.
Meanwhile, Singapore has also banned flights from and to Nepal starting from today.
According to the CAAN, Silk Air of Singapore had been operating three flights a week to Nepal. However, now it will be halted until further notice, said Raj Kumar Chhetri, spokesperson for CAAN.
He further said that no such restrictions have been made in international flights from Nepal side. However, so far Hong Kong and Singapore are two destinations that have halted flights from and to Nepal, he added.
From April 29, the government has imposed prohibitory order in the Kathmandu valley.
While it has made no restrictions on international air travel, the number of international flights has declined.
According to Chhetri, just a week ago around 40 international flights were being operated from and to TIA. However the flight numbers have now dropped to around 30.
"With increasing threat of second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are afraid of travelling. Owing to health safety concerns, countries are also imposing travel curbs," he said, "Thus, the flights are declining."
A version of this article appears in the print on May 3, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.