This update may include rapidly changing info in the days to come, or maybe not. We'll see.
The rate of new cases has dropped rapidly. There are 17,500 total cases, but the government is reported mass numbers of recoveries and only 40 deaths. The high point of just a few weeks ago with 750 positives in one day, has turned into a daily norm of just 75-100.
This is largely explained by the fact most of those 17,500 cases were imported from India as 300,000+ migrant workers returned home in a massive wave between mid may and mid June. Community transmissions in quarantines made things worse. The gov quarantines are thinning out and people are in their villages where either: The community spread is low, or cases are going undetected. Both equally likely.
The other reason for lowering cases could be the relaxation of testing volume in many areas. Most test were previously done in quarantines where a peak of 165,000 people made it easy to find positives. Now that people have returned to the hills, getting people tested is much harder.
The lockdown has lifted to allow businesses to open, although very few have since there is - no business. Bus and taxi travel is permitted in small areas. Travel from district to district still requires a transit pass from the local CDO and is heavily restricted.
This is a tricky one. The airport suspension was extended for the 4th time to lift July 21. No word at all has been issued from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to indicate when the airport will open. One rumor last month started by a director at CAAN hinted at Aug 1. That sounds like it could be pushed to Aug 17, but here again...just rumors which as of yet, have never proven reliable.
The domestic airlines are not keen to start operating as there is no business. The government is not likely interested in opening regular flights as someone is clearly getting kickbacks to authorize the few charters flying about once a week to get people - out. Corruption is running wild right now across all sectors of the gov.
The biggest road block to restarting tourism comes from the lack of action on the part of Yogesh Bhattarai, the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and....Aviation. He holds all the cards and is a terrible official. The worst. There has been no activity at all to address current tourist visa holders here, and certainly not any indication what they plan to do for future tourist visas.
There is no indication as to what arrival protocols will include when/if they open the airport for inbound travelers. They could mandate a negative covid test, pre-arrival visa secured at your local consulate, or even an arrival quarantine. They don't know what to do, so they have not done ---- anything.
We're four months into the pandemic and Nepal's government has done very little on the travel front other than to issue lockdowns and closures. There has been no real support for the travel industry and the 40 million dollars that have come in to ease the pandemic problems --- are missing.
The government would have to make an unprecedented change of behavior and immediately start rolling out clear guidelines and policies to reopen tourism by even October. That seems highly unlikely. The pandemic here could continue to decrease in severity, and even subside, before the gov gets solid actions in place to get things moving again.
In the unlikely event they do get the airport open, visa procedures sorted, and inter-district travel open, I would not expect to find a healthy Nepal if you get here. More than 500 businesses in Thamel have closed, and likely half as many in Pokhara. Most businesses capable of surviving, will not open until they can be assured business will come. They can't stay open without revenue.
Lastly, stigma is very challenging in Nepal. It's one of the least attractive things about the culture here. Nepalis are shunning their own villagers and even family members they suspect of covid, and even recovered from it. Many places are not going to be excited to see travelers, so do not expect the warm reception Nepal is known for.
Do not get too excited if you hear the airport is open at any time. While a good start when it comes, it's only a minor step in the right direction.
Again - I would not anticipate travel to Nepal before spring, with the chance of a successful October-November trip at less than 20%.