Bahrain prince bound for Everest 'had paperwork' for 2,000 Covid-19 vaccines

Manama says all documents were in order before the outdoor-enthusiast sheikh flew to Katmandu

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A Bahraini prince flying into Nepal with 2,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine had all the required paperwork, authorities in Manama told The National on Wednesday after health authorities in Katmandu launched an investigation into the matter.

Sheikh Mohamed Al Khalifa, who arrived in Katmandu on Monday, planned to donate the AstraZeneca shots to a Himalayan village before attempting to climb Mount Everest.

But the Department of Drug Administration said it would launch an investigation after news reports said the prince had not followed the necessary paperwork.

"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 AFP on Wednesday.

However, Sheikh Mohamed said the vaccinations would be carried out under the guidance of the Nepal Health Ministry and the government press office told The National that all required approvals had been given.

“To clarify, the Bahraini team arriving in Nepal had full approval to enter the country with a shipment of 2,000 vaccine doses,” a government spokesman said. “This approval was received before flying to Nepal from the Nepalese ambassador to Bahrain.

Mount Everest is taller by nearly a metre

Mount Everest is taller by nearly a metre

“The Nepalese embassy in Bahrain has today written to Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm this and to apologise for any confusion within the Nepalese government, and subsequent media reports on the matter” the representative said.

Sheikh Mohamed said in a post on Instagram he planned to inoculate 1,000 people in Samagaun village, an area where locals recently renamed a hill after the Gulf country’s royal family.

“We will summit the Bahrain Royal Peaks that have been named after our beloved kingdom and while climbing, we will pass by a village with 1,000 citizens living by the Bahrain Royal Peaks and get them all vaccinated. We are already proud of our team and the least I can say is that it’s my total pleasure and honour to serve with them,” he said on social media.

The prince's group, which includes members of the Bahrain Royal Guard, is returning to Nepal after climbing the 8,163-metre Mount Manaslu and the 6,119m 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 sheikh's team.

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

Authorities in Samagaun named the local mountain the Royal Bahrain Peak after the sheikh’s ascent of Mount Manaslu. The peak is 5,200m above sea level, Bahraini media reported at the time.

It is not the first Nepalese mountain in the area to be named after a royal, with Harry Hill named after Britain’s Prince Harry, who helped to rebuild a local school after  an earthquake in 2015.

The pandemic was a devastating blow to the many 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 India.