LONDON, Sept 10: Shailendra Kumar Jha and his spouse from Rajbiraj of Nepal reached Heathrow International Airport in London on Wednesday to catch their scheduled flight to Nepal.
Obviously, he was quite excited because he was returning home after languishing in the United Kingdom for some seven months due to a lockdown enforced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. But his excitement did not last long as Qatar Airways staffers stopped him at the airport asking him to produce COVID-19 PCR test report.
The Jha couple showed them COVID-19 test report which was earlier received by the National Health Service of the United Kingdom. The test result was negative. The airline staffers barred the Nepali couple from boarding the plane insisting that they need to produce PCR negative reports for coronavirus in the format as prescribed by the Nepal government, not the one that they were carrying at the moment.
However, the Jha couple was not alone to be barred from boarding the flight. Nearly a dozen passengers flying to Kathmandu from London were barred from entering the same aircraft as the airline staffer suggested to them to come up with a PCR negative report for coronavirus in the format as prescribed by Star Hospital in Sanepa.
The airline staffers suggested to them to produce the Real Time PCR report for COVID-19 (not the PCR report). Those who were traveling to Nepal in the same aircraft should have produced the report mentioning that the throat and nasal swab sample was already carried out, lab test time and date should have been specified and the negative test results for COVID-19 should have been done in the format as suggested by Star Hospital.
The passengers who were forced to be stopped at Heathrow Airport also staged a sit-in at the boarding counter of the Qatar Airways. They also directly contacted Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai to express their dismay. Bhattarai assured them of settling their problem. Finally, the passengers were allowed to board the flight a couple of hours later after Minister Bhattarai’s initiative accepting the PCR report produced by NHS, UK.
Contrarily, the PCR test results for COVID-19 as prescribed by the NHS only mentioned ‘negative’ in the report.
Another Nepali who came to Heathrow Airport after paying 600 sterling pounds for a COVID-19 PCR negative report was also stopped at the airport by the Qatar Airways staffers. He also missed his flight to Nepal as the airline staffers refused to provide him a boarding pass at the last minute.
Interestingly, those passengers who came to Nepal on Qatar Airways flight last Sunday had produced the COVID-19 PCR report in the same format as suggested by NHS, UK, said Tika Giri, one of the passengers who traveled to Nepal.
The passengers have expressed deep disappointment over not being allowed to go to Nepal despite producing ‘negative’ PCR reports.
Dr Sara Rawal, who is currently living in High Wycombe, the United Kingdom, said that the Nepal government should recognize the COVID-19 PCR report produced by NHS as this UK-based health institution has earned a global reputation.
She said that the PCR test report format could differ in different countries while urging the Nepal government to get informed about the PCR report formats in other countries around the world.
“The main thing is whether the passengers obtained the PCR report with negative results before boarding the plane. Barring the passengers from boarding the plane is highly regrettable,” Rawal told Republica.
After the incident, the passengers who boarded the London-Kathmandu Turkish Airlines plane were not barred from entering the plane although they produced PRC reports with negative results provided by NHS, UK.