It sounded like it was now or never. “For Australians in Nepal, this is a final call to anyone who wants to return to Australia,” Pete Budd, the Australian Ambassador Pete Budd in the Himalayan state, wrote on Twitter yesterday. “If you want to leave you must decide immediately, within next few hours. There will not be another flight to Australia.” Today the plane took off from Kathmandu Airport in the direction of Down Under.
Several thousand tourists have been stranded in various places in Nepal after the government in Kathmandu announced a nationwide lockdown last week due to the Corona pandemic. Since then, the borders have been sealed and the airspace isclosed, and there is a widespread curfew. The measures originally announced for one week have meanwhile been extended until at least 7 April.
Few confirmed cases, few tests
According to the US-American Johns Hopkins University, only five coronavirus infections have been reported in Nepal so far. However, this could also be due to the small number of not even 1000 corona tests that have been carried out so far, and that only in Kathmandu. The tests have now been extended to all seven provinces of the country, but a widespread, close control is completely illusory in a poor country like Nepal. Even in a highly developed country like Germany, the authorities can hardly keep up with the tests.
The embassies of the countries with tourists stranded in Nepal are currently having their hands full organizing the return transport back home. “Please continue to be patient, the logistics are extremely complex,” appealed the German embassy in Kathmandu yesterday. Today, the embassy advised the Germans still waiting in Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region, to take one of the three flights to Kathmandu scheduled for that day if possible. Tourists stranded in Pokhara in the Annapurna region were asked to return to the capital on buses provided by the Nepalese authorities.
The meanwhile third return flight to Germany is scheduled for next Saturday, even though the embassy restricts: “Necessary approvals are still pending!”
Deadline 3 April
The embassies work together with the Nepal Tourism Board. The board is to ensure that foreign tourists leave the country as soon as possible. For a week now, stranded tourists have also been able to obtain up-to-date information via the “Stranded in Nepal” portal and its accounts on social networks.
Stranded tourists are well advised to take the next best opportunity to get to the capital Kathmandu. “The government has just announced that domestic transport of tourists will only be permitted up to and including 3 April,” the German embassy announced today on Facebook. “So take this chance if you want to get out of Nepal!”
P.S. Today exactly ten years ago I started my former DW blog “Abenteuer Sport”, which became my private blog “Abenteuer Berg” in 2019. A bit like birthday. 😉 And that is no April Fool!