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This Canadian is stuck in Nepal after learning about the coronavirus too late
TORONTO -- A Canadian man is stranded in Nepal after he found out too late the global impact of COVID-19.
Connor Crickmore went on a remote, two-week trek through the Himalayas in early March. He says there was only one case of the novel coronavirus in Nepal before he left and there were no travel restrictions.
Crickmore says he was "confronted with the immediate reality of coronavirus" upon returning to the base camp with Nepal under a complete lockdown.
"We kind of get back to reality and the town is having meetings whether or not to allow us to stay or to send us to the outskirts to stay in a yak shed," Crickmore said in a video interview with CTV News Channel, describing the locals' treatment of tourists.
"There's a lot of fear and unrest from locals who kind of view foreigners as the reason for the spread itself -- and I can't really blame them for that -- but there's a lot of question marks and a lot of uncertainty," Crickmore said.
The village decided the group Crickmore was travelling with was not allowed to stay and had to go to the country's capital, Katmandu.
With movement restricted in Nepal, Crickmore says each traveller had to obtain permission from their governments to travel to a new city.
The group is now staying in a cramped hostel in Katmandu where food and clean drinking water have become an issue.
"It's difficult because every day that passes, new questions arise," he said. "When are we going to run out of food? Where is the food going to come from? [What about] water?"
Crickmore had a commercial flight to return to Canada on April 6, but Nepal has extended its travel ban until at least April 15.
"As of now I don't have a flight home," Crickmore said. "At this point the only flights in and out of [Nepal] are being organized through each country's respective government."
He says other countries are working together to get their citizens home.
"Norway is covering all the costs for its citizens to come home, all the Germany planes, if there's spare seats, anyone from the EU is allowed to piggyback on those, there's an American flight out today, an Australian flight out tomorrow, Sri Lanka in six days," Crickmore said. "At this point it's just a waiting game."
In recent days, a number of foreign countries have repatriated citizens from Nepal, including the United States, France and the U.K.
Crickmore said he and his family in Canada are still trying to get in touch with Global Affairs.
The government of Canada recommends travellers in Nepal "exercise a high degree of caution due to the fragile political and security situation."
Canadians have been advised to avoid all non essential travel outside the country until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global Affairs confirmed to CTVNews.ca on Thursday that 1,110 Canadians signed up to the "registration of Canadians abroad" service in Nepal as of March 31. The agency said the service is voluntary and that “this is not a complete picture of Canadians inside the country.”
“We are aware that there are Canadians in Nepal who are seeking to return to Canada,” a Global Affairs spokesperson said in an email.
“Due to the provisions under the Privacy Act, Global Affairs does not disclose information pertaining to specific consular cases.”
It added that Canadian diplomatic missions remain open and that travellers should follow the government on Twitter for travel advice.
Canadians requiring emergency consular assistance from anywhere in the world can contact the Emergency Monitoring and Response Centre in Ottawa, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by telephone at 613-996-8885 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.