KATHMANDU, Nepal (CBS SF/AP) — Retired Santa Cruz couple Stacy Kim And Martin Hynes planned on an extended trip, trekking around the wonders of Nepal, but found themselves Sunday at the Kathmandu airport awaiting the last repatriation flight back to the United States.
The county, nestled in the Himalaya Mountains, offered a small exit window for tourists trapped after the government shut down the nation’s borders and all access in and out to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Retired couple Stacy Kim, right, and Martin Hynes, from Santa Cruz, California, who cut short their five-month trekking trip arrive at the airport to take repatriation flight back home, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, April 5, 2020, Sunday’s flight was the second and most likely the last one for Americans for a chance to get home as Nepal is set to extend the lockdown imposed since last month to stop spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Binaj Gurubacharya).
Sunday’s flight was the second out of the country. The first Qatar Airways flight last Tuesday was arranged by the U.S. government and flew out 302 Americans from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport to Washington, D.C. The elderly, families with children and people with a medical condition were given priority on the flight.
The U.S. Embassy in Nepal estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 Americans were still in the country after the first flight, but says that not all of them were seeking to leave.
Passengers on board Tuesday’s flight said they paid $1,250 for the seat home.
“I have a three-month visa and I was hoping to stay another month and a half or so,” said one of the passengers, Ryan Paugh, a software engineer from Washington, D.C., who was trekking in Nepal. “We don’t feel like we want to leave, but it is the right decision to get back to the U.S. until the pandemic can calm down.”
Cameron Collins, a plumber from Albany, New York, was trekking and learning yoga when he too decided to shorten his trip and head back home.
“I just feel as if I should go home and be with my family,” he said. “I am just nervous of the outcome.”
There were an estimated 10,000 foreign tourists in Nepal when the lockdown was imposed last week. Over the week, two flights to Germany and one to France took Europeans out of the country.
The U.S. ambassador to Nepal, Randy Berry, said it took several days to gather Americans from various places and bring them to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, before the flight could be arranged.
“We wanted to make sure we had time to get those people back in from those remote locations so that we were able to send a flight back to the States in fact capturing as many people as we can,” Berry said.
As a result of the lockdown, all flights have been halted in Nepal and vehicles have been ordered off the road, while businesses, markets and offices have been closed.
Nepal has confirmed five cases of the coronavirus, including one person who has recovered from it.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.