3 pilots and 11 cabin crew test COVID-19 positive

Nepal Airlines jets preparing for repatriation flights at Kathmandu airport last week. Photo: KUNDA DIXIT

Fourteen crew members of Nepal Airlines, including three pilots involved in repatriation flights have tested positive for coronavirus, the carrier said on Monday.

The crew are being kept in isolation and will be monitored for treatment, while other crew members will be tested and contact traced.

“This happened despite all the precautions we took to disinfect aircraft, use personal protective equipment, and also not allowing crew to go home but keeping them at Soaltee Hotel,” one airline source said. “Our scheduled repatriation flights will not be affected.”

Last week, a crew member of Himalaya Airlines also tested positive for COVID-19. The private carrier is also operating repatriation flights to Malaysia, the Gulf and Maldives.

Nepal Airlines has been flying nearly non-stop to cities in the Gulf, Malaysia, Australia, Japan and on Tuesday is carrying Nepal Army Peacekeepers to the Central African Republic and Mali. 

The new cases detected in Nepal have been going down as the number of returnees from India has gone down. Monday saw only 180 new cases nationwide, down from an average of 400 every day last week. There were 264 patients who recovered on Monday, while the total number of recovered has gone up to 6,811.

The total number of cases in Nepal has now reached 15,964, with 35 fatalities from COVID-19. There are approximately 29,250 people still in quarantine and about 9,120 in isolation.

The Ministry of Health says it has increased the number of tests it is conducting per day with new equipment. On Monday, 4,721 RT-PCR tests were conducted. While earlier tests were on high risk groups through contact tracing and returnees, over the weekend the health authorities also started surveillance tests of people living in crowded areas of the Valley like Kalanki and Koteswor. There were 54 new cases detected in Kathmandu Valley in the past 24 hours. 

Home Ministry spokesperson Umakant Adhikary announced on Monday that security forces had been instructed to take action against anyone venturing out without masks, and urged citizens to take precautionary measures in crowded places.   

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