EDITORIAL: Abide by the rules

Airline companies should know that abiding by the rules will also help sustain their business that is already under stress

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), the regulatory body of the civil aviation sector, on Monday issued a directive to all domestic and international airline companies to strictly follow the health safety measures prescribed by the Ministry of Health and concerned agencies to prevent the COV- ID-19 pandemic from spreading in the community.

Although the caseload of the pandemic seems to be gradually declining in recent times, chances of its spike cannot be ruled out should the restriction imposed by the government get relaxed under the guise of fully opening up the economy. CAAN has also warned that it would be forced to suspend both domestic and international flights if they do not abide by the safety rules. The authority had to issue the strong warning to the airlines after they were found to be compromising with the rules set by the government and CAAN itself. The COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) had earlier made it mandatory for all international passengers to fill a travel form before boarding a flight. However, some of the airlines seem not to be following the rules properly.

As per the CCMC rules, passengers travelling to Nepal from abroad need to fill the CCMC International Traveller Form before their departure. The form should be filled only after they receive their air-tickets and COVID-19 negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test report taken 72 hours before they board a flight to Nepal.

This is a worldwide rule that Nepal has also adopted as per the health guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organisation.

The form can be filled via CCMC’s website, and the concerned airlines are also required to coordinate with the passengers wishing to travel to Nepal. Recently, CAAN also clearly informed the airline companies not to carry passengers from the United Kingdom, where a new variant of the virus has been detected, and it has already spread all over the world. Altogether 31 international airline companies operate flights to the country’s only international airport.

It must be noted that it is not only international airlines that have flouted the safety rules, even the national flag carrier – Nepal Airlines Corporation – has been found breaching them. More than a dozen Nepali passengers were found to have tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after they landed in Hong Kong and Japan. The carelessness on the part of the NAC and concerned agencies here at the TIA resulted in the suspension of many of NAC’s international flights for weeks. It has also been found that some of the negative PCR test reports produced by Nepali passengers at the TIA for international flights have turned out to be fake. This is a serious issue the government agencies, especially the Ministry of Health, must take note of and strengthen their monitoring mechanism to control such fraudulent activities. An international passenger to and from Nepal should also be in the know that a genuine negative PCR test report can make his/her journey hassle-free and keep other fellow passengers safe from the virus.

What the airlines should understand is that abiding by the rules will not only save the lives of many people but will also help sustain their business that is already under stress.

Protect local goods

The approval of the Safeguards, Anti-dumping and Countervailing Regulation by the government should bring cheers to the local manufacturers. The regulation is aimed at protecting and promoting domestic industries, and there is no reason why Nepal should not when all countries, big and small, are protecting their industries and goods. It is because of the protectionist measures taken by foreign governments that Nepal finds it hard to enter international markets. Although the least developed countries enjoy preferential treatment in the European Union market under its “Everything but Arms” (EBA), it raises issues like human rights and labour rights and phytosanitary clauses to deny the concession.

Nepal’s imports are more than 12 times its total exports, and it imports goods that are so cheap that local products are simply unable to compete in price.

This has forced the closure of local industries and transformed Nepal into an import-based economy.

The new regulation should, thus, help prevent unnecessary imports or import of goods that are valued at less than the cost price or excessive import of subsidised goods. But the outcome will depend on how strictly it is implemented.