Repatriation flight rescues stranded Spaniards from Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Dozens of Spanish nationals who have been stuck in Nepal since the Himalayan nation went into a coronavirus lockdown last month were flown out of the country Friday on a chartered repatriation flight.

The flight arranged by the Spanish government took back 99 Spanish mountaineers, trekkers and tourists who arrived in Nepal to climb its famed mountain peaks or hike its trails before the country went into lockdown on April 29 amid a spike in virus cases.

Authorities have closed the country’s borders and canceled all domestic and international flights except for emergency and repatriation flights. Schools, shops and markets have been closed, and people are allowed to shop in neighborhood stores for groceries for only a few of hours in the morning. Vehicles are not allowed on the streets.

Earlier in the week, Nepal allowed half a dozen chartered flights arranged by commercial airlines to fly out stranded passengers to the United Stated, Europe, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

The lockdown came as the country’s spring mountaineering season was starting. There are still hundreds of foreign mountaineers up on the country’s mountains, including Mount Everest. Though some of them have already summited the mountains, there are many more who are still climbing and will be returning to Kathmandu in the next few weeks as season ends.

Nepal has been recording its record daily new cases and deaths this month, while struggling with shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen. It reported 8,305 new infections and 190 deaths on Thursday, bringing the nation’s totals since the pandemic began to more than 488,500 infections and 5,847 deaths.

Nepal has been appealing to international community for help in fighting the virus.

The Spanish plane arrived in Nepal on Thursday, bringing in health aid given by the Spanish government. The shipment included respirators, oxygen concentrators, face masks and virus test kits.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, meanwhile, announced Thursday that it was sending flights with emergency assistance. The first of three flights had already departed for Kathmandu carrying surgical masks, face shields and gloves for health care workers.

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