Nepal will restart commercial flights in mid-August, the country announced Tuesday, in a bid to jump-start its battered tourism sector.
Nepal's airports will reopen to international and domestic commercial air travel beginning Aug. 17, as decided Monday in a cabinet meeting. At first, flights will go only to countries less affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic; more destinations will be added gradually.
To enter or exit the country, travelers will need to carry a certificate confirming that they don’t have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Incoming international travelers will also need to self-isolate, but authorities did not specify for how long. New guidelines are coming, said Health and Population Ministry spokesman Samir Kumar Adhikari, according to The Himalayan Times.
Nepal also announced Tuesday that it would end its nearly four-month lockdown at midnight.
"We are ending lockdown from tonight, but it doesn't mean that we don't have any threat of health risks," government spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada told reporters in Kathmandu.
The lockdown, which began in March, came at the height of Nepal’s tourism season, when mountain climbers and other tourists typically flood in. The shutdown cost the tourism industry over 10 billion rupees a month, or over $83 million a month, reported The Himalayan Times. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said Tuesday that it would allow all tourism-related activities slated for the fall to go ahead, starting in mid-August.
The announcements come shortly after India reimposed restrictions on movement in two of its states bordering Nepal, reported the Nepali Times. Nepal’s land borders with India and China will stay closed to most people until at least Aug. 16.
Nepal has recorded nearly 18,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 40 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. About 5,500 cases are active.