Nepal Airlines to fly stranded Australian tourists to Sydney

Nepal’s Coronavirus Control High-level Task Force decided to extend the lockdown by another week, and allow rescue flights to take tourists stranded in Nepal back to their countries, but only if requested by the concerned embassies. 

So far, the French and German embassies have brought their nationals as well as other Europeans to Kathmandu for flights out on Qatar Airways via Doha. 

The Australian embassy is taking its nationals out on a direct flight to Sydney on 1 April by chartering a Nepali Airlines Airbus A330. The British Embassy is also arranging flights to Doha after collecting Britons trapped in Lukla, Pokhara and other areas. 

Nepal Airlines will also be taking stranded Sri Lankan tourists on a direct flight from Kathmandu to Colombo on 7 April.

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So far, 1,255 tourists have been brought to Kathmandu either by air or road since the lockdown began, nearly half of them from the Mt Everest area alone. Most of them have already taken flights back to their home countries. Of them, more than 900 were Europeans.

“We are trying to locate other nationalities like Japanese, Canadians, and Sri Lankans and find ways to send them to their home countries,” Nepal Tourism Board’s Dhanjaya Regmi said.

This Tara Air Viking Twin Otter made five shuttle ferries between Lukla and Kathmandu on Sunday to rescue 30 foreign trekkers and 28 Nepali guides.

2020 had been declared Visit Nepal Year, and the pandemic hit at the peak spring trekking season in the Himalaya. For example, there are believed to be 600 Canadians still in Nepal and there have been efforts to bring them back.

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Tourists flown back from Pokhara being taken to hotels in Kathmandu before flights out to their home countries this week.

On Sunday alone, there were 10 flights by Tara Air, Sita Air, Nepal Airlines and Summit Air to Lukla to bring back trekkers, some of them American and British, and their Nepali guides still stranded there. There were a dozen flights on Saturday to Kathmandu from Lukla. However, as wind picked up by mid morning some of the scheduled rescue flights had to be cancelled and 158 remaining trekkers and 70 Nepali guides will be flown back to Kathmandu on Monday.

Meanwhile, a Nepal Airlines Airbus A330 flew back to Kathmandu from Guangzhou early Sunday morning with 13 tons of medical equipment and supplies procured by the private sector. They include COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, masks, hoods, boots and other medical equipment. 

Also on Sunday morning, a Sichuan Air flight flew in medical equipment and supplies donated by Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and Sichuan Provincial Government to Nepal. The boxes were handed over by Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi at the Ministry of Health. The supplies include N-95 makes, PPE and digital thermal guns.

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