The Nepali Times reported on Wed that many Indian nationals who are stuck in India due to the coronavirus travel restrictions imposed by a number of countries, are now using Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, to fly abroad (‘Indians use Nepal to circumvent travel bans‘, 21 Apr).
It said that they are using Kathmandu as a transit point to fly to countries like Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Hong Kong, which have all banned direct flights from India. As of today (24 Apr), India reported more than 340,000 cases of coronavirus, setting a world record for a third day running.
“Despite Nepal itself seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities, and a week-long lockdown in New Delhi, neither India nor Nepal and destination countries have so far stopped the roundabout route,” Nepali Times wrote.
“This has led to a several-fold increase in air fares for the daily two flights between New Delhi and Kathmandu. While the 1 hour and 15 minute Kathmandu-Delhi flights cost Rs9,000 this week, Delhi-Kathmandu tickets are selling for up to Rs45,000.”
The number of Indian nationals flying to Kathmandu from New Delhi has doubled in the past two months. There were 8,727 arriving in Kathmandu from 1-18 April, while the number was only 4,763 in the whole of February.
Currently, India and Nepal have an “air bubble” agreement with the Kathmandu-Delhi route served by Air India and Nepal Airlines.
Typically, the Indian nationals will spend 2 weeks in hotels in Kathmandu because of requirements by countries that passengers should not be in India in the past 14 days before arriving at the destination countries.
After staying 2 weeks in Kathmandu, the Indian nationals will immediately fly out to the destination countries, so as not to incur further lodging costs. Between 1-18 April, 5,250 Indian nationals flew out of Kathmandu airport, reported the Nepali Times.
The increased numbers of Indian nationals arriving and staying for 2 weeks meant that Kathmandu’s budget hotels are currently packed, noted Nepali Times. “We have seen an increase in bookings in budget hotels, and occupancy is up even in 2 and 3 star hotels,” said a representative from the Hotel Association of Nepal.
No doubt, the crowding in the hotels at Kathmandu would easily result in the spreading of the COVID-19 virus.