All flights to remain suspended till May 15

Kathmandu, April 25

The High-Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 today decided to continue suspending domestic and international flights till May 15 as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, the committee had decided to suspend domestic and international flights till April 30.

Member Secretary of the committee Narayan Prasad Bidari told mediapersons after the meeting that the next meeting of the Cabinet would decide whether or not to extend the lockdown.

He said the committee was of the view that the lockdown had largely been able to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We have slightly higher number of cases in Udayapur district but in the rest of the country, we have very few cases. It is because of the lockdown that we have been able to control the spread of the pandemic,” Bidari said.

He said the next Cabinet meeting would decide on the lockdown keeping in mind the threat of COVID-19 pandemic in neighbouring countries as well as other countries of the world.

Bidari further said the government would carry out tracing, tracking and   treatment more effectively.

Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai told THT that the committee had assessed the risk of COVID-19 infection and concluded that the risk had not yet abated and hence the lockdown should not be lifted immediately.

He said the Cabinet meeting scheduled for tomorrow would decide whether the lockdown should be extended.

Today’s meeting of the high-level committee formed a committee under Chief Secretary Lok Darshan Regmi to prepare a modality for extension of the lockdown.

A member of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat told THT that the next Cabinet meeting would certainly extend the lockdown, but there was a possibility of the government allowing some relaxation in certain sectors.

Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta, who is also a member of the high-level committee, told THT there were divergent views in the committee regarding extension of the lockdown with some suggesting stricter enforcement and others seeking some relaxation in certain areas.

Some members opined there could be complete relaxation in the mountain region which remained unaffected by the pandemic. Some members even said that red, yellow and green zones should be in place across the country while extending the lockdown.

Minister Bhatta said he had ensured smooth supply of goods from India during the COVID-19 lockdown and India had been supportive in meeting Nepal’s needs.

“We have got from India even those items that it had recently banned for export. India has been supportive but many people do not understand the value of Indian assistance to Nepal. Life will be much harder without India’s help,” Bhatta said.

He favoured extension of the lockdown for some more days with certain relaxation to make people’s lives easier. Bhatta said more caution needed to be exercised for sometime as the number of COVID-19 patients was rising in India. “We do not have enough resources to deal with COVID-19 pandemic so we must focus on preventive measures,” he added.

Bidari said there was no shortage of medicines and the government was in a position to supply the required medicines to all provinces as and when necessary.

Nepal has been under lockdown since March 24 after the second COVID-19 case was reported.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 26, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.