Flights from coronavirus hotspots continue

Kathmandu, March 3

The civil aviation regulator is not in a mood to temporarily suspend Nepal-bound flights from countries that have been badly affected by the coronavirus infection despite the apex court’s order.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal today said it had not recommended any domestic or foreign airline conducting direct and transit flights from coronavirus hotspots — China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Bahrain — to halt flights to Nepal until the situation improves in those countries.

The statement comes a day after the Supreme Court issued an interim order directing the government to halt all direct and indirect flights from countries that pose high risk of coronavirus infection.

“We have not asked any airline to suspend flights to Nepal as we are awaiting the copy of the verdict issued by the Supreme Court,” CAAN Spokesperson Raj Kumar Chhetri said.

It might take days for the CAAN to receive a copy of the court order as it has to pass through the Office of Attorney General and the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. “We know this is a lengthy process but we cannot do anything but wait for the letter,” said Chhetri.

Coronavirus disease, which was first reported in China in December-end, has since spread to 72 other countries, killing at least 3,111 and affecting around 91,000 people.

“Considering the sensitivity of the situation, the CAAN could have directly reached out to the court to find out about the verdict and taken immediate action accordingly,” said Spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General Sanjeeb Raj Regmi.

CAAN is also aware about the court’s verdict as news media reported about it last afternoon. But Chhetri reiterated that CAAN would not take any decision unless it received a copy of the court’s verdict. “The court’s verdict generally provides a guideline on what needs to be done, so we need to see it before taking any decision,” Chhetri said.

Nepal receives at least 14 flights per day from China. However, the number of flights have declined after the virus outbreak. According to sources at Tribhuvan International Airport, China Eastern and Air China are conducting a flight each daily while China Southern is still operating three flights a day. However, Tibet Airlines and Sichuan Airlines have cancelled all their Nepal-bound direct flights from China.

Himalaya Airlines, which flies to Beijing, Guiyang, Changsha and Chongqing every day has temporarily suspended all its operations to China.

Nepal is still receiving one flight a day from Seoul via Korean Air and around 12 flights from Gulf countries every day.

Two days ago, the government had decided not to issue on-arrival visas to citizens of China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran w.e.f March 10.