Ram Khatry I 2 April 2020 I Some 100 Australians and permanent residents of Nepalese origin are today spending their first night in a Brisbane hotel as they begin their 14 day Federal government-supervised coronavirus quarantine.
The quarantine regime for the Nepal Airlines passengers who arrived in Brisbane earlier today is so strict that they are not even allowed to step out of their hotel room, let alone go into each other’s room for a chit-chat or a stroll in the corridor.
Even hotel staff will not serve them face to face for the next 14 days.
Perhaps one of world’s most followed commercial pilots and definitely the most famous face in Nepal’s aviation industry, Vijay Lama, was at the helm of flight RA4131 from Kathmandu to Brisbane. The Nepal Airlines A330-200 had a brief refuelling stopover in Malaysia before it continued its journey towards Brisbane – the first ever arrival of a Nepalese aircraft in Australia, a big deal among Nepal-lovers down under.
Earlier on, Australian ambassador to Nepal Peter Budd and his dedicated staff members worked day and night to ensure their fellow citizens travelling in Nepal got on that plane. Looking at their numerous Facebook posts, it is not hard to see how hard they worked to get Australians from various parts of the mountain nation to Kathmandu and then finally to ensure they got safe passage from the embassy premises to the airport as Nepal remained under strict lockdown.
A successful hospitality entrepreneur was one of the 200 plus Australians and Australian residents, the total number that included around 100 Nepalese-origin passengers, who were forced to go into the designated coronavirus quarantine facility. Raji Khanal, owner of Niji Sushi Bar in eastern Sydney, had just been delivered his dinner as he gave interview to southasia.com.au on the telephone.
“Oh, he’s gone, didn’t even see him!” he exclaimed on the phone.
Upon reading a copy of the hotel’s instruction to the quarantined guests, it became clear why Mr Khanal did not see the person who delivered the food outside his room. The hotel management has strictly instructed its staff to avoid providing face-to-face service to the guests who in turn are required to telephone to place an order and then avoid opening the door while the staff members are delivering the food.
Once the staff leaves the food at the door, the guests are expected to allow ten seconds before they can open the door so that a direct contact with the staff is well avoided.
So how will the guests know when the food is delivered the door?
“Please be advised that after a delivery is made to your room, our team member will knock on the door 3 times.”
“The laws passed by the Government require you to remain in isolation in your room for the next 14 days. Once inside your room you are required to remain there until 14 days has passed. Do not leave your room unless instructed to do so by the Hotel or Emergency Service personnel,” a five-page document handed to the guests by Australian Federal Police personnel reads. Hence, the keys given to the guests are “a single use key” which basically means once they enter their rooms, they cannot get out and lock the doors behind them because if they do, they cannot get in again.
Mr Khanal’s wife and two sons aged six and eight are in Sydney while he is holed up in his Brisbane hotel room, “My sons wanted to see my room, so I obliged via a video chat.”
The owner of the popular Kingsford-based Sushi Bar featured prominently in many food publications says he has no complaints at all about getting holed up in his hotel room. In fact, he is looking forward to spending the next 14 days in a constructive and positive manner.
“You see, after all this, you begin to think what’s the point of all the aggressive business activities?” the father of two young exclaimed. He said the next few days would probably be spent talking to his family and friends discussing the entire drama around the quarantine following which he plans to utilise the quiet time to reflect on his life plans ahead as well as read books and watch movies he wanted to watch.
After missing few commercial flights, Mr Khanal feels lucky to be back in Australia and is grateful for it, “It’s like winning a war after all the drama!” If h
e had not been able to get a seat on today’s flight, he would have been stuck in Nepal for another few months.
A direct flight between Nepal and Australia has been a hot topic among members of the Australian Nepalese diaspora. Their hope to fly with Nepal’s national flag carrier had heightened after Nepal procured two wide-body aircraft from Airbus. Today’s direct flight under the Captain Lama has reignited the speculation, social media suggests.
According to an enthusiastic passenger, it took 12 hours and 55 minutes for Nepal Airlines flight to complete its journey from Tribhuvan International Airport and Brisbane International Airport – 4 hours and 40 minutes from TIA to KUL and further 8 hours and 25 minutes from KUL to BNE.