Coronavirus in Nepal


Coronavirus/COVID-19 facts and figures in Nepal
So far, Nepal has only had a few cases of the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019). On January 5th a Nepali student entered Nepal from Wuhan (the epicenter of Covid-19). He tested positive for the virus after swabs were sent to Hong Kong for analysis. Nepal closed its land border with China but allowed flights to arrive.

Please note, that all recent updates are at the bottom of this page in chronological order.

As this is an ongoing global issue, please jump to the latest updates below – Nepal is currently in lockdown. 

You can jump to the latest updates here.

Why has Nepal got such a low level of coronavirus infections?
Nepal is not alone in having a low infection rate. Indonesia still claims to have zero cases (source: The Guardian). To complicate matters both countries have various rumors stating why they don’t have many or any cases. These range in Nepal from being “strong” to high-altitude to already being used to dust in the lungs. Whereas in Indonesia many have claimed it’s due to strong prayers. The reality is probably more to do with testing equipment than anything else. Coronavirus safety when traveling information 1 

Nepal’s medical system is not the best. Hospitals do not have the latest equipment, sanitation systems, or even testing equipment. Most of Nepal’s viral tests are sent overseas for analysis. The same has been said about Indonesia (source: Channel News Asia).

Who do you believe? Personally, I’ll go with the vast majority of the world’s countries who have shown larger cases and side on the fact that Nepal’s screening process is not that good. That said, there does not seem to be any on the ground evidence of flu or cold-like systems around Nepal at the moment.

What has Nepal done to prevent the Coronavirus from spreading?
Great question. The answer is delayed and frustrating but the end result is the same as all other countries. For weeks people have questioned why Nepal continued to allow Chinese flights to enter the international airport. There was never a solid answer though most everyone presumes it’s to do with keeping the Chinese happy and money coming in.  They have, however, closed the borders of the land with China. Coronavirus safety when traveling information 2 

There is now a temperature screening area at the international airport – just like in most other countries.

The main hospitals have been put on alert and staff in some of these hospitals have been trained on the symptoms of COVID-19.

What happens if there is an outbreak of Coronavirus in Nepal?
This is the problem. Nepal is not equipped for any large outbreak. Doctors have stated there simply are not enough isolation wards and beds (source: Kathmandu Post). An evacuation plane carrying non-Coronavirus cases of Nepali from China arrived in Nepal on February 16th, 2020. A separate isolation area has been set up for them. In my experience, doctors in Nepal have a firmer grip on reality than administrations. Again, keep in mind so far there doesn’t seem to be a large outbreak or any at all in Nepal.

Should you be worried about the Coronavirus when traveling to Nepal?
Any viral outbreak is something to be worried about. The reality is that so far, Nepal does seem to have had only one case and no outbreak. It’s business as normal in Nepal though there is a complete shortage of dust masks and hand-sanitizer. There are no Chinese tour groups allowed to leave China so Nepal is rather refreshingly empty of tourist groups at the moment. Coronavirus safety when traveling information 3

However, if you have booked your flights to Nepal then do keep an eye on the international news for an increase in Nepal. Unfortunately, Nepali National News, while improving, is slow, accused of bias, sensationalized, and rarely follows up on news stories. There will be resource links at the bottom of this page.

One of the biggest problems for tourists is if their flight transits through China. You’ll need to check with your airline if your flights have been affected. Likewise, bring your own facemasks, hand-sanitizer, and once again do read the resources below.

It’s also about keeping Nepal safe!
One point that’s not being mentioned is that you as a tourist also hold responsibility in keeping people safe. If you have been near someone with the Coronavirus or been in an area where it is widespread then you may be a carrier of the virus itself. Medical professionals are now stating it can take up 21 days for the virus to show symptoms.

If you even mildly suspect you could be a carrier keep the following in mind. Nepal does not have adequate medical facilities to treat you. If you do bring in the Coronavirus you may be putting the lives of many people without those resources at risk. This is especially true if you go trekking where medical facilities are non-existent.

If you do think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or any Coronavirus please do not visit Nepal until you have been treated at home. 

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Reported signs and symptoms of the Coronavirus include: Coronavirus safety when traveling information 4

Fever
Coughing
Difficulty breathing
Pneumonia in both lungs
How to prevent or get Coronavirus in Nepal?
The Center for Disease Control is recommending the following and it applies to any country at the moment.  CDC Coronavirus prevention guidelines.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
The World Health Organisation has the following guidelines for the Coronavirus.

Wash your hands frequently. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub eliminates the virus if it is on your hands.
Practice respiratory hygiene. When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Why? Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevent the spread of germs and viruses. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate objects or people that you touch. Coronavirus safety when traveling information 5
Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing, and have a fever. Why? When someone who is infected with respiratory diseases, like 2019-nCoV, coughs, or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces that can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.
If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
Tell your health care provider if you have traveled in an area in China where 2019-nCoV has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has traveled from China and has respiratory symptoms. Why? Whenever you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing it’s important to seek medical attention promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Respiratory symptoms with fever can have a range of causes, and depending on your personal travel history and circumstances, 2019-nCoV could be one of them.
If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China. If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, carefully practice basic respiratory and hand hygiene and stay home until you are recovered, if possible.
As a general precaution, practice general hygiene measures when visiting live animal markets, wet markets, or animal product markets.  Ensure regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with hands; and avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products. Strictly avoid any contact with other animals in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats). Avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.
Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Handle raw meat, milk, or animal organs with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus
Symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus
Additional COVID-19 precautions if traveling to Nepal
Keep in mind with the above that socially and culturally in Nepal open coughing and spitting is accepted. However these practices are not recommended by healthcare organizations as they may contribute to the spread of a virus and are hygienically problematic.

There is a shortage of dust-masks and face-masks in Nepal. Genuine face-masks with filters are difficult to get in Nepal at any time of year.

There is a shortage of handsanitizer in Nepal.

Sanitation and good hygiene are not practiced in Nepal so take precautions like washing your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.

In the past few days, some medical organizations have said the virus can be transmitted on physical items such as money or paper. So once again, do wash your hands often.

Do bring your own supply of facemasks, handsanitizer, and gloves.

Make sure you have good travel insurance for Nepal.

Trekkers in Nepal
Like any other country at the moment it’s important to stay up to date with the latest Coronavirus information before departing
Is it safe to travel to Nepal?
This is for you to decide based on when you are going and if the coronavirus spreads. Take your own health care professionals' advice. Keep up to date with the latest news. At the moment, Nepal has had only one confirmed case.

Updates:
March 3rd, 2020 Update

On March 2nd, 2020 Nepal immigration decided to temporarily suspend visa-on-arrival for the nationals of the following countries, effective from March 10, 2020, until further notice:

People’s Republic of China, including Special Administrative Regions
Islamic Republic of Iran
Italy
Republic of Korea
Japan
Those wanting to travel to Nepal from these countries can obtain a visa beforehand from the Nepal Mission abroad (embassy). Applicants in these countries are required to submit a recently issued health certificate with the visa application. Further details can be obtained at http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/

On March 3rd the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) issued the following statement. 

Kathmandu, March 3, 2020

Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) would like to appraise all concerned about the series of measures implemented by the Government of Nepal to reduce imported cases and the community transmission of the COVID19 (Wuhan Coronavirus) in Nepal.NTB Letter about coronavirus and visa on arrival in Nepal

The Government of Nepal is monitoring the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19). Taking into account the global recommendations and measure of the WHO, Government of Nepal has decided to temporarily suspend visa-on-arrival for the nationals of the following countries, effective from March 10, 2020, to till the date of further notice:
The people’s Republic of China, including Special Administrative Regions
Islamic Republic of Iran
Italy
Republic of Korea
Japan
Germany*
France*
Spain*
However, those wanting to travel to Nepal can obtain a visa beforehand from the Nepal Mission abroad. Applicants in these countries are required to submit a recently issued health certificate with the visa application. (Source: www.nepalimmigration.gov.np)

The Tribhuvan International Airport, which is the only international point of entry by air, has stepped up screening measures using additional thermal scanners, thermal guns, sanitizing spray, and an increase in the number of health assistants. (source: Ministry of Health and Population)
A new provision of the announcement has started at the arrival section in TIA for necessary screening for all passengers.
Travelers experiencing symptoms (discovered through checks or via self-declaration) are immediately quarantined and more tests are to be conducted by the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, which is equipped with a special unit and trained medical staff. A quarantine facility has also been established and is on standby just on the outskirts of the city of Bhaktapur. (source: Ministry of Health and Population)
The Health Ministry has requested the public to temporarily suspend all major gatherings in order to reduce the risk of community spread. (source: Ministry of Health and Population)
At the Nepal Tourism Board, the Crisis Response Unit will be posting regularly updated advisories on the COVID19 threat on our official website and social media channels.

#END

*countries added after March 3rd.

Update 10th March 2020

Nepal has added Germany, France, and Spain to the list of countries that require a visa before arriving in the country from the 13th of March.

I’ve also found out that the “Certificate of Health” needed to obtain a visa is called a clear NT-PCR test or Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel (NT-PCR Test information from the CDC). It should be noted that there’s been no confirmation if travelers transiting through the above countries need this test certificate or not. As the certificate is needed at an embassy for a visa it likely to be at the discretion of the embassy. Likewise, it is highly recommended you bring a copy of the certification with you to Nepal.

Update 11th March 2020

Nepal has confirmed that “nationals from these countries and all travelers coming from these countries, willing to visit Nepal can obtain a visa beforehand from the respective Nepali Missions abroad. Those applicants including the nationals transiting from these countries bound to arrive Nepal are required to submit a recently issued health certificate stating that they are not infected by COVID-19 along with their visa applications. This document will be scrutinized both at the immigration counter at Tribhuwan International Airport and land border entry-exit points of Nepal.”

An important point above for many will be that it affects those “transiting from these countries” as well.

Nepal has also confirmed that heath certificates will be “scrutinized both at the immigration counter at Tribhuwan International Airport and land border entry-exit points of Nepal”

 

Update 13th March 2020

An urgent update has been sent by the Department of Immigration in Nepal.

March 13 Nepal Immigration COVID19 Update
March 13 Nepal Immigration COVID19 Update
 

The notice gives the following important facts which will be effective from March 14th, 2020 to April 30th, 2020.

Visa-on-arrival for all foreigners has been suspended for the aforementioned period.
All foreigners with a prior valid visa of Nepal have to submit a swab test PCR health certificate issued
maximum 7 days before their arrival date to Nepal and must be submitted at the immigration office
Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
Any foreign nationals including NRNs willing to visit Nepal for compelling reasons may contact to
Nepali diplomatic missions abroad. A recent swab test PCR health certificate issued a maximum 7 days
before their arrival to Nepal is mandatory along with visa application and it has to be submitted at the
immigration office TIA.
On-arrival-visa (Gratis) facility granted to Non-Resident Nepalese cardholders is also suspended for the
aforementioned period.
All foreign nationals entering Nepal since 14,h March 2020 are subjected to stay in Self Quarantine and
Nepali nationals including NRNs are subjected to stay in Home Quarantine for 14 days from the date of
their arrival.
Foreigners with diplomatic and official visa entering Nepal for the first time or traveling back to Nepal
arc subjected to stay in Self Quarantine for 14 days.
Foreigners with Business, study and working visa traveling back to Nepal are subjected to stay in Self
Quarantine for 14 days.
All Nepali nationals residing abroad are requested to avoid non-essential travel and are urged to follow
high precautionary measures.
All the land ports of entry in Nepal remain closed for arrival in Nepal during the aforementioned period
to the foreigners from third countries and arc requested to use Tribhuvan International Airport only.
All the permits for mountaineering expeditions issued, and to be issued for spring 2020 season arc
suspended.
Update 17th March 2020

A new letter from the Department of immigration states that all trekking permits for restricted areas in Nepal are no longer being given due to the COVID-19 situation in Nepal. Department of Immigration suspends restricted area permits in Nepal due to COVID19Do note the letter is backdated to March 11th and is applicable from March 15th onwards. There is no indication that any National Parks are suspending permits.

I would caution any trekker not to partake in trekking during the COVID-19 outbreak – even if you’ve been in the country for several weeks or months. From what I can ascertain, Nepal has a low level of testing kits for COVID-19. Asymptomatic (no symptoms showing) transmission may be occurring in the country. Coming from a large city like Kathmandu or Pokhara and trekking into remote villages with little to no medical resources would be irresponsible at this time.

Update 18th March 2020

From midnight (Nepal time) on Friday, the 20th of March Nepal will close it’s bordered to all tourists. This includes all arrival flights and also includes Nepali citizens.

Indians and Chinese are still allowed to cross the borders …

At this time, if you are in Nepal, as a tourist, do note that Nepal allows up to 5 months for tourist extensions. I am asking if there will be leeway for those whose visas are passing 5 months considering the international airlines are slowing down and transits are difficult.

I would also encourage all tourists in Nepal not to go trekking at this time. Nepal lacks medical facilities in the mountains, including simple things like paracetamol. There’s generally a much older population in the mountains and they are more susceptible to COVID-19. This virus can be asymptomatic – meaning you can carry it without being sick. Please protect the wonderful people in the mountains by NOT visiting them for now. They will be fine! Most live sustainable lives by farming in these areas. They won’t be fine if there’s a viral outbreak in their village.

This is a historic time across the planet. Never before have we faced an enemy like this. We need to stay apart, to stay alive. Consider this your call to a war like no other before. This is history, be on the right side of the battle lines.

 

Update 20th March 2020

In a historic announcement NTB have suspended TIMs permits, thereby effectively suspended trekking in Nepal.

Nepal suspends TIMS cards

This effectively ends trekking in Nepal until further notice.

Once again, I strongly advise and tourist, domestic or foreign, not to go trekking in Nepal at this time. There are many older people living in villages with no medical supplies or centers at all.

Update 22nd March 2020

It has been announced that from 6 am 22nd March till 6 am on March 31 there will be a complete lockdown of Nepal.  This means nobody is allowed out unless it is to buy essential food or medical supplies. Tourists are included.

Nepal Tourism Board has announced the following hotline numbers for tourists stuck in Nepal and trying to get out.  Kathmandu 9851254666. Pokhara 9856022287. Chitwan 9855062052.

There are many international flights no longer servicing Nepal. If you are in Nepal and trying to leave, it is highly advisable you call your Embassy first and the airline. There have been several flights that have been canceled after bookings have been made. You should also consider transit airports and if they have restrictions. Once again, do co-ordinate with your embassy. Hotels in Nepal can arrange private transport to the airport for tourists only once the flight has been confirmed.

An offical second COVID-19 has been discovered in Nepal. I will not be doing a continuous count of cases here. There are many online COVID-19 counters around the world. Nepal currently lacks testing kits so the data would be askew.

Stranded in Nepal? Hundreds of trekkers are coming out of treks during the lockdown and are unable to get back to the main cities. Currently, there are approximately 119 trekkers in or around Lukla with an estimated 400+ more on the way down from Everest Base Camp. Similarly, on the other side of Nepal, there are many more trekkers stranded in Jomson.   In between these major trailheads there are likely to be hundreds of more trekkers who are unable to secure transport back to a major city.

If you are one of these trekkers please read the above updates to familiarize yourself with that’s going on. At the moment Nepal is in a national lockdown until March 31st. All flights have been suspended. You are advised to contact your Embassy for advice along with contacting the Nepal Tourism Board crisis hotlines – Kathmandu 9851254666. Pokhara 9856022287. Chitwan 9855062052.

NTB and TAAN are aware of the situation and are trying to coordinate safe passage back to a main city. At this time trekkers are being asked to continue paying their own way in regards to accommodation and meals. You may want to contact your travel insurance company in light of this too.

It is important all tourists, including stranded trekkers, obey Nepali officials at this time. There is both a national and international crisis unfolding and officials are following directives as they have been handed out. Social distancing is part of this and adding to the confusion in getting people back to a major city – if it is possible. It is important you follow officials instructions and avoid any conflict or independent initiatives otherwise you may face detention or arrest. There’s no need to panic! Across the world right now there are many tourists in similar situations. Keep calm, follow online if you can, and call the above numbers along with your embassy.


Here is a list of embassies in Nepal. Here is a list of airlines in Nepal.

Contacts in Nepal:

Nepal Tourism Board Crisis Number +977 9851254666
Nepal Tourism Board Crisis Email: crisiscell@ntb.org.np
Department of Immigration Kathmandu +977-01-4429659 / 4429660
COVID-19 Hotline (8am – 8pm – Nepali Time) +977 9851255839 / 9851255837 / 9851255834
Tourist Police +977 14247041 (domestic 1144)
Nepal Police +977 1 4228435 (domestic 100)
Sukraraj Hospital (Teku / Kathmandu) +977 1 4253396
Gandaki Hospital (Pokhara) +977 61520067

Nepali media and news outlets have been writing inaccurate and unconfirmed articles about the visa on arrival situation over the past few days. The above information is correct.

Additional Coronavirus / COVID-19 resources
UN COVID-19 information
WHO Coronavirus fact video
British Medical Journal Coronavirus resources
Infection Prevention and Control Canada Coronavirus resources
Center for Disease Control Coronavirus information
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