Nepal awaits China’s approval for evacuation flight

Published On: February 14, 2020 07:15 AM NPT By: Sangeet Sangroula  | @SangeetJourno

BEIJING, Feb 14: After the Chinese side assured to provide flight clearance for Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) evacuation flight to land in Wuhan, the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing has asked all Nepali students awaiting repatriation to stay ready to fly home on Saturday. 

The Nepal government plans to send an NAC aircraft to Wuhan – the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak – on Saturday to bring back 182 Nepali nationals including three children residing in the capital and other cities of Hubei Province. 

The Embassy of Nepal in Beijing on Wednesday made a formal request to the Chinese side for flight clearance for an NAC plane that will fly to Wuhan to evacuate Nepali citizens, mostly students, on Saturday. Although the embassy is awaiting flight clearance from the Chinese side, it hopes to secure the clearance from the relevant Chinese authorities for the planned evacuation flight by Friday. 

Apprehensive of being infected as the deaths and infections from the epidemic outbreak go up unchecked, Nepali students in Hubei had been calling for an immediate evacuation for the last two weeks. However, the Nepal government had remained indifferent to their calls even though several other countries including India evacuated their citizens from Hubei. 

At least 1,310 people have died and 48,206 others have been infected by the novel coronavirus until Thursday. 

Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy, Sushil Kumar Lamsal said the Chinese side has assured the embassy to provide flight clearance and other permits required for the evacuation planned for Saturday at the earliest possible. “The authorities concerned have assured that they will provide the clearance soon. Hopefully they will inform us about the same soon,” Lamsal told Republica. 

The embassy has asked all Nepali students seeking evacuation to sign a 6-point quarantine agreement drafted by the Ministry of Health and Population and email it to the embassy and the ministry by Friday. As per the agreement, all the evacuees must spend 14 to 17 days at the quarantine centers set up by Nepal government in Kathmandu upon their arrival in Kathmandu and strictly follow the quarantine rules of the center. 

It also states that the evacuees will not be allowed to meet their family members or relatives during the quarantine period and that anyone violating the agreement will face legal action. 

Apart from Nepalis residing in Wuhan, the embassy is looking to evacuate Nepali students living in five other cities – Xian, Xiangyang, Enshi, Yichang and Jingmen – of Hubei Province. All these cities are two to seven hours drives from Wuhan. 

On Thursday evening, the embassy informed the Nepali students living in these cities that buses will come to pick them up on Saturday morning. As it still awaits flight clearance from the Chinese side, the embassy, however, has not informed the Nepali citizens about the flight details including its arrival and departure time. The embassy has assured the students that it will inform them the flight details by Friday. 

The embassy has suggested to anyone with high temperature to better stay in the university than come for the flight as they will not be allowed by the Chinese authorities to fly to Kathmandu. It has also asked the Nepali citizens to refrain from wearing thick clothes as it may lead to a higher temperature reading during the boarding time. 

The likely Saturday evacuation move has brought a sense of hope among the Nepali students, who are stuck in their dormitories with limited mobility and food supplies. But some of them are still doubtful if they will be evacuated Saturday as the embassy has yet to secure flight clearances. Imran Khan, a medical student in Hubei, said he is not fully assured of being repatriated until the embassy secures the permit for the flight. “But then again, I hope this time we will be evacuated and taken back home,” he said.

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