Govt told to halt flights to high-risk countries

Kathmandu, March 2

The Supreme Court today issued an interim order telling the government to halt flights from and to the countries that pose high risk of coronavirus infection, including China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Bahrain, till the disease was brought under control.

The order was issued by a single bench of Justice Tej Bahadur KC in response to public interest litigation filed by Advocate Purna Rajbanshi.

The SC also ordered the government to halt flights that land in Nepal using any place in China, South Korea, Japan, Iran or Bahrain as transit.

The apex court also ordered the government to subject people who enter Nepal by land or by air to coronavirus screening. It also ordered the government to immediately isolate and

quarantine Nepalis and foreigners suspected for virus infection and to ensure food supplies were not affected in the wake of coronavirus scare.

Since coronavirus infection is not limited to one region or geography, it is imperative to have adequate preparedness to deal with the possibility of coronavirus outbreak, the SC observed.

The apex court told the government to take precautionary measures to deal with the possibility of outbreak, including posting adequate number of health professionals on the northern border and other border points to check the entry of people infected with coronavirus. The court also listed the case for priority hearing.

The SC has also issued a show cause notice to the government, seeking a written reply within 15 days on how the government plans to prevent coronavirus from spreading in the country.

Advocate Rajbanshi had filed a public interest litigation yesterday seeking adequate government measures to tackle a possible outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

He has urged the court to ensure adequate number of health professionals at Tribhuvan International Airport to carry out screening of passengers and to halt direct flights from and to China, South Korea and Japan.

The petitioner has also demanded that the government carry out awareness programmes to inform the public about precautionary measures as the possibility of COVID-19 outbreak was high in Nepal.

The PIL states that several countries have taken precautionary measures to control the possible outbreak of COVID-19 and the World Health Organisation has also sounded global alarm, but Nepal, which shares border with China, had done nothing on the northern border to check possible outbreak of coronavirus.

Stating that Chinese citizens who land at Tribhuvan International Airport were directly heading to programme venues in Nepal, the petitioner said the authorities concerned had not expanded the scope of checks at TIA. He added that the Department of Health had devised no plan to quarantine or treat people numbering in hundreds.