As public anger over the growing wave of COVID-19 infections in Nepal starts to bubble over, with many blaming travellers from virus-stricken countries like India and the government’s incompetent handling of the pandemic, the country has decided to stop all domestic and international flights.
Health experts say another major contributing factor to Nepal’s second wave of infections is the massive political rallies organised by the ruling Communist Party of Nepal and other opposition parties in an attempt to shore up support and show strength during the crisis.
As of 12 am on Monday (3 May), all domestic flights have been halted, while international flights are due to be stopped as of midnight on Wednesday, said the government on Sunday.
Even as the number of cases continues to rise alarmingly in India over the past few weeks, travellers into Nepal via land and air—from returning Nepali migrant workers to travellers from India who transit via Nepal—are swarming into the country and causing a sharp rise in infections there.
This is a concern for many other nations as well as travellers, who have sought to transit via Nepal in an effort to circumvent the travel bans other countries have placed on incoming travellers from India.
Nepal has already banned third-country travel via its airports and has imposed a two-week lockdown in several cities. It has also closed schools, colleges, factories, night clubs, and theatres on top of banning public gatherings.
Unfortunately, the number of infections continues to rise, especially in densely populated areas like its capital city of Kathmandu and metropolitan areas bordering India.
According to data available from Our World in Data by the University of Oxford, the number of cases in Nepal has skyrocketed since mid-April.
It went from less than 100 new daily cases on average per week to more than 4,500 as of Saturday (1 May). On Sunday, the country reported 7,211 new cases.
That brings the total number of cases up to over 336,000 and 3,325 deaths in Nepal.
The first time Nepal halted international flights in response to the pandemic was in April last year when international flights were grounded for over five months.