By — Shyamal Sinha
The Nepal government has decided to resume domestic and international flight operations starting from August 17, nearly four months after they were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of the flights came on March 22 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, reported Xinhua news agency.
During the months, only chartered flights for humanitarian purpose or delivery of medical goods were allowed.
Yogesh Bhattarai, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, told Xinhua on Monday evening that the decision was taken during a cabinet meeting earlier in the day. “My ministry will prepare detailed health protocols to resume the operation of the flights,” he said.
The government’s move follows the decreasing rate of COVID-19 cases in the Himalayan country in recent days.
With new 186 cases on Monday, total COVID-19 cases in Nepal reached 17,844, according to the Ministry of Health and Population. Monday’s decision was welcomed by tourism entrepreneurs.
Birendra Bahadur Basnet, managing director of Buddha Air, welcomed the government’s decision, saying that they are all prepared for “new normal flights” with all passengers, airports and crew’s safety protocols in place.
Kishor Raj Pandey, chairman of Sathi Travel Agency, told Xinhua on Monday that the move would not help lead to a significant jump in international travels but some business travels could take place.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also severely hit the domestic flight operators as their aircraft have been grounded for months and their expenses continue to rise, especially because of insurance and payment of employees salaries, despite the government deciding to waive the airport ground charges and other fees.
“We are not expecting tourists coming to Nepal at least for next 3-4 months but people associated with travel agencies abroad are willing to come to Nepal if the flight resumes,” he said. On June 10, the country relaxed the COVID-19 lockdown, allowing some economic activities to resume.