KATHMANDU, Aug 20: The government’s plan to make hotel quarantine mandatory for the migrant workers returning home through repatriation flights could possibly put many Nepali migrant workers into trouble.
As most of the Nepalis expecting to return home are either laid off by their companies or asked to stay on a long unpaid leave, they are not financially stable to afford the cost to stay in hotel quarantine. Many of these returnee migrant workers also include those whose employment contracts expired and were forced to return home.
Stating that adequate arrangement of the hotel quarantine facility was yet to be made, the COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC), on Monday had requested the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) to suspend all chartered flights. Acting on the CCMC letter, the government put off its plan to resume the fifth repatriation flights scheduled to take place between August 17 and August 31.
The decision comes in line with CCMC’s plan to make hotel quarantine mandatory for both Nepali and foreigners, who enter Nepal via international flights.
Under Secretary at the MoCTCA Rajan Paudel said that the Nepalis stranded abroad are already in a bad state and making them stay in hotel quarantine with their own expenses will only put them in a difficult position. “If they have a place of their own to be quarantined, why not let them use it?” he questioned. As of now, Nepalis stranded abroad who returned through repatriation flights were allowed to use hotels, quarantine facilities established by the government or their own homes for quarantine.
Although CCMC has made hotel quarantine mandatory for the returnee migrants, the MoCTCA said that the previous decision to allow returnee migrant workers to use their own home for quarantine is still in place. “We have a list of hotels that have agreed to provide the facility, and I see no issue on that,” said a tourism ministry official, asking not to be named.
Around 60 hotels including tourist-standard and star hotels have agreed to provide quarantine facilities to the people willing to stay in hotels. According to the General Secretary of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) Sajan Shakya, there are 5,000 rooms available in Chitwan and 3,000 rooms each in Pokhara and Bhairahawa.
Shakya said some 3,000 rooms are available for hotel quarantine in the Kathmandu Valley alone. “The government has asked the association to prepare 10,000 rooms for quarantine facilities. But we have proposed that the quarantine facilities be spread in places like Pokhara, Chitwan and Bhairahawa where there are many hotels,” he added.
Officials at CCMC said although the discussions to make abroad returnees use hotel quarantine before they head to their homes are still underway this will most probably come into effect soon.
According to HAN, tourist-standard hotels have lowered their prices to Rs 1,800 per person for twin sharing rooms and Rs 2,800 for single rooms. Earlier, the rate was Rs 2,000 and 3,000 for twin sharing and single room, respectively. Hotel Shangri-La, a five-star hotel is also up for service now and has set Rs 10,000 as its rate for twin sharing rooms and Rs 16,000 for a single room.
Hotels that earlier provided quarantine facilities do not have pleasant experience while being the service provider during the pandemic. Hotel operators say that hotels that had prepared for 14 days quarantine service served the guests for only a few days as many left very early. “Not everyone had conducted PCR tests before coming to Nepal.So they stayed till their testing was conducted and left the hotel right after their results came,” he said, “Many used hotel quarantines only for a few days which left the hotels bear more operational cost.”
For the fifth phase of repatriation, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) had allowed Nepal-based international airlines to operate 31 repatriation flights and 11 flights for international airlines during the period. The government had decided to bring only 500 passengers per day. A total of 51,963 Nepalis have been repatriated from abroad since the government started operating repatriation flights starting June 10.