Health Alert – U.S. Embassy, Kathmandu, Nepal

Location:  Nepal Countrywide

Event:  COVID-19 Response

We understand that you may be weary of hearing this, but the Embassy truly appreciates your patience as we have worked with Washington, DC, to set up a repatriation flight for U.S. citizens to depart Kathmandu and proceed to the U.S.  We received word overnight that we do have approval for a charter flight to take U.S. citizens back to the U.S.  The flight is tentatively scheduled for 12:00 noon on Tuesday, March 31.  The aircraft will be operated by Qatar Airways under U.S. government charter contract.  The flight will depart from Kathmandu en route to Doha and then proceed to Dulles International Airport in the Washington, DC area.  The flight is a charter, so any historical relationship a passenger has with the airline (such as a frequent flyer program, having reached a status level, etc.) is not applicable in any way on this charter flight.  We understand that many U.S. citizens seeking to return to the U.S. have existing tickets on Qatar Airways.  Although we do not have this in writing, we understand that Qatar Airways is considering some type of compensation for such previously ticketed passengers, for example a voucher for future travel, but this is not confirmed, and it will be the responsibility of the passenger to pursue this with the airline directly.  Existing tickets on the airline operating the charter are not usable on the charter flight.

We understand that this announcement of a flight leads to the question about who will be on the flight.  We have more U.S. citizens seeking to return to the U.S. than there are seats on the plane.  We are already working toward being able to provide a second repatriation flight, but that will likely not be confirmed until Tuesday.

As for this first flight, we will be operating using State Department guidance to prioritize passengers.  First, we will prioritize U.S. citizens at higher risk from the Coronavirus, along with their immediate household family members.  In the case of COVID-19, priority will be given to older adults (65 years and older) and people of any age with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease.

Next, U.S. citizen minors will receive the next level of prioritization.  A U.S. citizen minor who is traveling with a parent or legal guardian with legal entry status, such as having valid LPR status.

Third, adult U.S. citizens in need of medical assistance who do not fall into a higher priority group.  And finally, all other U.S. citizens, on a first come, first served basis.  We will be using the online form that most of those interested in returning to the U.S. have already completed.

In order to confirm interest in this repatriation flight, we have already begun calling potential passengers this morning based on the priority categories above.  Some of you reading this may have already received calls.  The most important decision we need from those of you who receive calls is whether you are committed to going.  We need to finalize a passenger manifest as quickly as possible as we work with the Government of Nepal for aircraft landing and departure approvals and with the airline for flight preparation.  At this time, in preparation for a possible call, please decide definitively whether you wish to return to the U.S. on Tuesday or not.

We understand that a potential factor in your decision to take the flight may be the cost to you.  In yesterday’s message, we included the information that the price will be no greater than the amount of a full-fare economy flight that would have been charged immediately prior to the events giving rise to this evacuation.  In looking back at prices before this crisis, we’re finding a range of $1,800 – $2,000 for full-fare economy class tickets.  This is simply an estimate to help you decide, not a quote on this flight.

As we mentioned yesterday, we can confirm that each passenger will be not be expected to pay for the flight up front.  We will not have the capability of accepting payment for the flight.  Payment will be arranged through the Department of State after arrival in the U.S. through information on the DS-5528 form, which we will collect from each passenger.

As for the DS-5528 form, we appreciate the preparedness of all those who completed the form and sent it back to us.  However, we will not use the completed forms you emailed to us, as we need to receive the form from you in person at the airport.  So, we will ask each adult traveler to carry their completed DS-5528 form to the airport.  We understand that some of you will not have access to a printer, and that is okay.  We will also have copies available at the airport.  But if you have access to a printer and can complete the form prior to going to the airport, that will be one less thing for you to worry about as you prepare for the flight.  We will post the DS-5528 PDF file on our website.  Yesterday we posted that one member of each family should complete the DS-5528.  Modifying this, we would like to ask each adult member of each family to complete the DS-5528 but only include minor children on one parent’s DS-5528.

We have already begun to receive questions about how passengers will get to the airport and how much luggage you will be able to take, but we are still working on these details.  For those of you with whom we talk with on the phone today and confirm your commitment to Tuesday’s flight, we will send a detailed email of further information about getting to the airport, luggage, and other questions.  We also are working on a list of frequently asked questions that we hope to post to our website later today.

For those still outside Kathmandu and having trouble getting to Kathmandu, we continue to coordinate with the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Chief District Officers to assist groups of citizens scattered throughout Nepal.  You may wish to contact NTB directly as well.  (https://www.welcomenepal.com/; email: crisiscell@ntb.org.np)

We again want to thank everyone who completed the online survey form to provide your information for us.  It has been most important for us to hear from those of you who are certain that you want to be included on an evacuation flight from Kathmandu.  For those who still have not filled out the online form, please click on the link below.

https://bit.ly/2JcPBhD

Again, thank you for your patience; we request that all citizens shelter in place as we collect further details about approved onward travel.  If any part of this email prompts questions, or if the information here is not clear, please send us an email at consktm@state.gov.  We have had a consular team in the office every day 8:00 am to 5:00 pm since the government lockdown began, and we will continue to be in the office to answer your questions as they arise.  You can reach us at 01-423-4000.  After the hours listed above, we have a duty officer available to answer calls, who can be reached through the Embassy phone number.

Actions to Take:

  • Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website for travel restrictions to the U.S.
  • Consult the CDC website, for the most up-to-date information regarding enhanced screening procedures.
  • Consult the Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population website for the latest updates on the health situation in Nepal.
  • Consult the Government of Nepal’s Immigration Department website for the latest updates about immigration restrictions in Nepal.
  • Consult the U.S. Embassy website for updates on Nepal-specific COVID-19 information, entry to and exit from Nepal, quarantine information, and for other local resource contact information.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. 

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