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Nepal suspends visa-on arrival, cancels mountaineering expeditions

Kathmandu, March 13 (IANS) Nepal has temporarily suspended its visa-on arrival system till the end of April and has also cancelled all the spring mountaineering expeditions, including that to Mount Everest, as precautionary steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus, a government official said here on Friday.

A day after the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, the Nepali government on Thursday took these decisions, Xinhua news agency reported.

Nepal has so far reported only one coronavirus case and the infected person has already recovered, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.

“Visa-on arrival for nationals of all countries has been suspended until April end,” Bikas Devkota, a spokesperson at the Ministry, told Xinhua on Friday morning.

“Suspension of this facility begins on Saturday.”

Earlier, the Nepal government had suspended visa-on arrival for nationals of China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

Devkota said that the Nepali government has not suspended providing other types of visas.

According to the decisions taken by the High Level Coordination Committee formed to combat the COVID-19, even diplomatic and official passport holders who come to Nepal for the first time or return to after staying abroad should stay in self-quarantine in Nepal for 14 days.

The Himalayan nation has also suspended the facility of entry through the land routes for foreigners except Indian nationals from March 14 to April 30.

“Cross-border movement of Nepali and Indian nationals will be allowed through certain border crossings only,” the decision read.

Nepal and India share a porous border and there are more than 100 border crossings between the two neighbours.

Regarding the cancellation of the spring mountaineering expeditions, Meera Acharya, Director at the Department of Tourism (DoT), told Xinhua: “All the permits that have been issued so far or were about to be issued for spring expeditions in 2020 have been called off for now.”

According to the official, the Department had already issued five permits for the spring expeditions, and was in the final step of issuing other permits.

Spring is the major climbing season in the Himalayan country, which begins in April and extends through May, generating millions of dollars of revenues through the issuing of expedition permits.

An expedition to Everest usually takes 45 to 90 days, a short climbing window, depending on favourable weather, and generally falls after mid-May.




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