Mt Everest-bound Bahraini prince probed over COVID vaccine ‘gift’

Nepal investigates how Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa brought 2,000 vaccine doses to the country without prior approval.

Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa, right, arrives at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on March 15, 2021 [Nishant S Gurung/AFP]

Nepal is investigating how a Bahraini prince planning to climb Mount Everest brought 2,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to the country without prior approval, authorities said.

Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa, who flew into Kathmandu on Monday, planned to donate the AstraZeneca shots in a village, according to the Nepali Embassy in Bahrain.

“It was brought without meeting the required procedure and prior consent from our office. We are investigating and will take a decision on whether it can be used,” Santosh KC, spokesman for the Department of Drug Administration, told the AFP news agency on Wednesday.

In this March 15, 2021 photo, Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa, third from right, arrives at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu [Nishant S Gurung/AFP]

The prince’s group, which includes members of the Bahrain Royal Guard, is returning to Nepal after climbing the 8,163-metre (26,781-foot) Mount Manaslu and the 6,119-metre (20,075-foot) Lobuche in October.

At the time, there was a ban on foreign visitors because of the pandemic but Nepal made an exception and granted a permit to the prince’s team.

Nepal has now opened its borders to climbers, and the prince and his team are among the first to come to Everest this year after the virus wiped out last year’s season on the world’s highest peak.

In this March 15, 2021 photo, Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa, fifth from left, poses for pictures upon arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu [Nishant S Gurung/AFP]

The pandemic was a devastating blow to thousands of people in Nepal, from guides to hoteliers, who depend on the climbing industry for their livelihoods.

Mountaineers must now quarantine for seven days and present a negative test before heading out on their expedition.

Nepal began a vaccination drive in January after receiving one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from neighbouring India.

Source: AFP

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