Kathmandu, March 6
Nepali Congress lawmaker Gagan Thapa today moved an urgent motion of public importance in the House of Representatives, drawing the attention of the House to coronavirus outbreak around the world.
Thapa said Nepal had remained unaffected by COVID-19 thus far, but that might change in the coming days, adding that the government should remain prepared to deal with any possibility of an outbreak.
“What happens if we have to face Iran-like situation where hundreds of cases of infection were reported within a very short period?” Thapa wondered. He added that Nepal, which shared an open border with India and had poor health service, should remain vigilant to deal with the possibility of an outbreak.
Thapa said the House should form its own committee to monitor the government’s preparedness to deal with COVID-19. He urged the government to start training health professionals, besides managing protective gear required for health professionals.
He said 1,378 people travelled to Nepal from high-risk countries — China, Japan and Iran — in the last week of February, but the government authorities did not know which places those travellers visited in Nepal. Thapa added that the government needed to start producing sanitisers within the country and should seek help of private hospitals to deal with any possibility of COVID-19 outbreak. He said there was a need for developing an integrated system to inform the public about the risk of COVID-19 infection and prevention tips.
Thirty-nine lawmakers took part in the debate urging the government to do the needful to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Minister of Health and Population Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal said the federal government had created a high–level mechanism under Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Ishwar Pokhrel to deal with the possibility of outbreak and provincial governments had also created similar mechanisms.
“The level of caution that we had maintained in the past weeks when the spread of COVID-19 was confined to China won’t be enough now, as COVID-19 has spread to the US, Europe, the Gulf and even India,” Dhakal said. He added that the government would now screen all passengers for COVID-19 at the airport, as well as the 37 border entry points.
He said the government had received assurance from the Indian government of unhindered supply of medicines and raw materials for medicine. Dhakal said the government had prepared 155 beds for treating COVID-19 patients and was ready to declare health emergency to use public buildings and hotels to treat COVID-19 patients if the infection spreads in Nepal.
A version of this article appears in print on March 07, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.