KATHMANDU, 16 October 2020: Nepal’s Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister, Yogesh Bhattarai, confirmed he tested positive for Covid-19 according to his Facebook page comment earlier this week.
He is the first minister in the country’s cabinet to contract the disease.
Republicworld com, an online news service, said the tourism minister had earlier in the year declared the country “Covid-19 free”.
The 54-year old tourism minister downplayed the crisis in a bid to shore up confidence in the country’s tourism.
Nepal relies heavily on the annual influx of European trek enthusiasts during October and November. The country hopes to open its doors to specialised trekkers by the end of the month after some airlines resume international flights 17 October, but the recent spike in Covid-19 infections could derail those plans.
Nepal reported this week 117,976 cumulative cases with 675 deaths. The country has an infection rate of 404 per 100,000 population. That compares with Thailand currently having a 5.23 per 100,000 infection rate. Most European nations have issued warnings against travel if the destination has a 25 rate of infection per 100,000 population.