The government is preparing to extend the suspension of domestic flights, ignoring requests of the private sector and public demand.

Considering the critical situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the government is holding discussions to extend the suspension of domestic flights, revealed Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai.

“The government is aware of the situation of the tourism industry and wishes to express its gratitude to tourism stakeholders for their patience,” he said, adding, “However, human life is above all. To save lives sometimes we have to take harsh decisions and that’s what the government is doing.”

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has submitted a proposal to the Cabinet to extend the suspension of domestic flights.

“We have proposed to the Cabinet to extend the suspension of domestic flights till October 1,”

Bhattarai added.

Earlier, the government had announced it would allow resumption of both domestic and international flights from September 1.

However, it allowed resumption of only international flights and that too with a limited schedule while suspending the operation of domestic flights till September 15. Now the government is planning to extend the restriction by another 15 days.

Bhattarai said during the 15 days of extended suspension, the government would prepare a schedule for domestic flight operations.

“In the initial phase, we will prioritise destinations that have faced less impact of coronavirus and more decisions will be taken depending on how the situation evolves,” he said.

However, Yog Raj Kandel, spokesperson for Airline Operators Association of Nepal, said there was no point extending the suspension of domestic flights.

“Earlier, when the government announced it would allow domestic flights too from September 1, all the airline operators had opened bookings and a large number of people had booked their flights. Considering the public demand, we have to resume domestic flights as early as possible,” he added.

Kandel added that almost all other countries have resumed domestic flights.

“Even India, which reported more than 95,000 COVID cases in a day yesterday, has resumed domestic flights. The government has to lift this restriction being placed on the domestic sector,” he stressed.

According to Minister Bhattarai, MoCTCA has, however, proposed to the Cabinet to allow trekking and climbing activities in the country.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 11, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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