BEIJING, Feb 2: Following the steps taken by many other countries, Nepal has initiated the process to evacuate stranded Nepalis from China’s Hubei Province -- the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus, which has already killed 259 people and infected 11,848 individuals across China.
The government is planning to send a special chartered flight to evacuate Nepali nationals currently residing in Hubei Province, which is in lockdown for almost a week now following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Embassy of Nepal in China said in a statement on Saturday.
Over 200 Nepali nationals, mostly students, are in Wuhan and other cities of the province. As other countries started evacuating their citizens from Hubei as the coronavirus grew more fatal and infectious, Nepali students in Wuhan had been calling for an immediate evacuation.
However, the government remained silent to their call despite widespread appeal from various quarters to help the stranded Nepali nationals.
The Embassy of Nepal in China in a public notice on Saturday asked Nepali nationals who intend to go back to Nepal on the chartered flight to fill up a form issued by the embassy and submit them before 9 am Sunday.
While stating that late submission of the form will not be entertained, the embassy has said that the particulars of the chartered flight will be arranged based on the total number of Nepali nationals willing to go back to Nepal.
Uttam Neupane at the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing said that almost 200 Nepali nationals have already filled up the form as of Saturday evening. He said that it may take four to five days before the Nepal government starts evacuating Nepalis stranded in Hubei Province.
“Once the form submission deadline is over, we will send the details to the government authorities in Nepal.
Based on the final number of Nepali nationals willing to return back home, the government will make further arrangements for evacuation,” he said. It may take four to five days before we finally evacuate.”
So far, more than 18 countries including India and Sri Lanka in South Asia have either evacuated their citizens or are in the process of evacuating them. The United States has imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine for its citizens who returned to the US from Hubei Province in the past two weeks. Other countries like Japan and Australia have followed suit. However, the Embassy of Nepal has not made it clear how the evacuated Nepali citizens will be quarantined once they return home.
Meanwhile, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai has said that Nepal has two aircraft on standby if Nepalis need to be evacuated from China.
Addressing a consultation meeting with tourism stakeholders in Kathmandu on Saturday, Minister Bhattarai said an aircraft each of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) and Himalaya Airlines can be flown to China anytime if Nepali students currently studying in China needed to be rescued. Nepali students living in China are reportedly safe and have not contracted coronavirus as of now.
Issuing a press statement on Saturday, the embassy said there is no need to panic as the Chinese government will perform its international obligations in a highly responsible manner, and make every effort to ensure the health of foreign citizens in China. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has set up emergency response mechanism to coordinate and handle foreign affairs related to epidemic prevention. It is understood that some Nepali citizens, including students, are still in Wuhan and their lives and medical care are guaranteed,” it said in the statement.
The embassy has assured all concerned that China will continue to take proactive measures to protect their legitimate rights and interests.
“We appreciate that the Nepali side has taken measures and have full cooperation with WHO office in Nepal for preventing the epidemic. If any need, the Nepali side can communicate with the Chinese Embassy in Nepal or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in a timely manner,” the statement further said.