The second wave of the coronavirus (COVID) evolved rapidly in Nepal resulting in hospitals running at full capacity and resulting in dismissed secondary care capability.
The Government of Nepal had also reinstated a ban on all scheduled international flights to and from Nepal for an unidentified time frame. Against this background the decision was taken by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to drawdown all nonessential British personnel and dependents from Nepal. Unfortunately for some, this was the second families repatriation that they would be part of and ensuring it was as seamless as possible was imperative to not cause additional pressure to an already stressful situation.
The Ministry of Defence, with the assistance of British Gurkhas Nepal (BGN) service personnel arranged a special charter flight for the repatriation. This charter was also used to assist with the delivery of the UK Government contribution to the COVID crisis here in Nepal by carrying essential medical supplies which included ventilators, personal protective equipment and oxygen concentrators. These important medical supplies were collated in the UK Aid funded humanitarian staging area and distributed to where they were most needed across different health facilities in the country. The flight also enabled some much-needed resilience freight to be delivered to BGN which included COVID vaccinations. These vaccinations have permitted all BGN service personnel, dependents, and civilian staff to receive a full course and enable BGN to continue to function in the delivery of its mission and core tasks during the crisis.
The evacuation of 115 service personnel and dependents was completed later the same day which included passengers not just from BGN but also the wider Brigade of Gurkhas who had been recalled by their Units. Prior to the day of the flight, BGN had to plan and coordinate the collection, accommodation and testing of all the passengers from all over Nepal. Similar to the previous evacuation, BGN conducted a successful, although much reduced rescue mission to retrieve them. The flight departed on time with the whole process at Tribhuvan International Airport being fairly smooth. The passengers were compliant with COVID prevention measures throughout, with staggered arrival times at Tribhuwan International Airport and segregation on the aircraft to maintain social distancing where possible.
Nepal was placed on the UK red list with effect from 12th May 2021. Prior to being able to return to their respective accommodation location all the passengers were required to complete ten days mandatory quarantine in a government approved facility upon arrival in the UK with mandatory COVID testing on days two and eight. All our respective passengers were cleared to leave after their ten days and are now settled in their new locations. There has been a lot of planning and coordination during this unpredictable period. The planning continues and BGN will monitor the situation with the hope being that the families can return at the earliest opportunity.
By Warrant Officer Class Two T Stone, Movement Control Warrant Officer, British Gurkhas Nepal