KATHMANDU, July 12: The government has decided to operate 42 flights in the second phase of its evacuation operation of Nepalis stranded abroad as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). The flights will be operated from Wednesday for a week.
The COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) has released a repatriation flight schedule from July 15 to July 21. The decision was made as per the decision made by the directive committee on July 10. Nepalis stranded in six countries including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Malaysia will be repatriated in those flights.
The government has assigned 16 flights each for Nepal-based international airlines-- Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) and Himalaya Airlines. Of the 42 flights, 10 will be carried out by international airlines operators like Air Arabia, Fly Dubai, Jazeera Airways and Malindo Air.
Meanwhile, a Silk Air aircraft from Singapore will touch down at Kathmandu airport on Tuesday. Similarly, Korean Air will carry out a flight to Nepal from Seoul, Korea. The NAC is also set to operate a UN Mission charter flight on Tuesday for Nepal Army.
The government has repatriated more than 22,000 Nepalis from different countries in the first phase. Repatriation flights took place from June 10 and lasted till July 12. A total of 924 Nepalis were brought home from abroad on Sunday alone.
In the first phase, the government had prioritized Nepalis who had lost their jobs due to COVID-19, stranded while they were on a visit and those whose visa and contracts had expired in their labor destination. Nepalis who were desperately waiting to come back to Nepal were repatriated in the first phase.
Amid criticisms for continuing an average of 10 chartered international flights charging expensive airfare from troubled Nepali nationals, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had suggested CCMC to safely start operation of scheduled flights.
Airline operators have been exerting pressure on the government authorities to reopen airports with safety guidelines that will be followed by airline operators, crew members, airport management and other stakeholders. However, the government rejected the proposal saying that the overwhelming air traffic could significantly increase risk of the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.