180 Nepalis in China plead to return home

Kathmandu, February 2

At least 180 Nepalis living in the Chinese province of Hubei want to return home as early as possible, as they fear contracting the novel coronavirus, which is infecting and killing more and more people every day in China.

The Embassy of Nepal in China has received 59 applications from Nepalis living in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, requesting immediate evacuation. Nepalis living in five other cities in Hubei have also formally requested the embassy to airlift them to Nepal, with 50 applications coming from Jingzhou, 29 from Enshi, 28 from Shiyan, nine from Jingmen and five from Yichang, according to the embassy.

“All of these applicants are students, except three who are children,” Sushil Lamsal, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, told THT over phone. At least 10 Nepalis are also working in Hubei. “But they have not shown interest in returning to Nepal,” Lamsal said.

Nepalis living in Hubei had filed applications for evacuation following a notice issued by the Nepali embassy yesterday.

“Those who have filed applications will be sent to Nepal on Wednesday evening via Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. A chartered Nepal Airlines Corporation aircraft will be used to airlift them,” Lamsal said.

The government has started holding discussions with NAC, the national flag carrier, on bringing Nepalis back from China on Wednesday, according to NAC Spokesperson Archana Khadka. “But nothing has been finalised so far as we first need to prepare documents to get approval from the Chinese aviation authority to operate the flight,” Khadka said. International health standards will be followed to evacuate Nepalis from China, according to government officials.

Before the evacuation, those returning to Nepal will have to undergo medical check-up in China. If they test positive for novel coronavirus, they will not be allowed to travel to Nepal and will have to undergo treatment in China.

“As for those who have not contracted the disease, we will have to assure the Chinese government that they will be quarantined properly before they are sent home,” said Lamsal.

Many in Nepal fear that homes could become potential incubator for rapid spread of the disease if the government releases those evacuated from China without keeping them in quarantine facilities to ascertain they have not contracted the virus.

The government has said it will quarantine the evacuees for two weeks before sending them home. But it is yet to finalise the location to quarantine them.

The Ministry of Health and Population has proposed to quarantine China returnees at Nepal Electricity Authority Training Centre in Bhaktapur, Agricultural Development Bank Central Training Institute in Bode, Bhaktapur, Nepal Administrative Staff College in Jawlakhel, Lalitpur, or National Ayurveda Research and Training Centre in Kirtipur. “But we have not finalised the location,” said MoHP Spokesperson Mahendra Shrestha.

Bangladesh, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the USA have evacuated their citizens from Wuhan. More countries are evacuating or planning to evacuate their citizens.

The novel coronavirus has so far claimed at least 304 lives and infected at least 14,380. As the disease is spreading rapidly, several countries have imposed travel restrictions on China and suspended flight operation to the country.

The new coronavirus has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation.