HIGHLIGHTS: PM Oli's address to the nation

KATHMANDU: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli addressed the nation today to share the current updates on national situation of COVID-19 and steps taken by the government to contain its spread.

The Prime Minister elaborated on the measures taken by Nepal Government to control the effects of the pandemic in the country, the steps that further need to be taken, and responsibilities of various sectors including the general public.

The key points from the Prime Minister's address to the nation today:

PM Oli shared the current COVID-19 statistics of the world, expressed condolence to all who lost their lives in this fight and expressed solidarity on behalf of Nepal towards the entire global community saying we are all in this fight together.

The whole of humanity is fighting the difficult fight against COVID-19 pandemic today. As of now, more than 74,000 people have lost their lives to the disease, over 47,000 are in critical condition, while the total number of infection has crossed 1.3 million.

In Nepal, though only nine cases have been detected so far, we are still at high risk. The country has been in a lockdown for the past two weeks, which has been extended for another week. Everyone including the daily wage workers, businessmen, students, among others, have been severely affected.

Lockdown was the inevitable step which the government had to take to ensure prevention and further spread of the disease and to avoid dire consequences. In light of this, the lockdown has been extended for the next eight days and the government hopes for coordination from all sides.

PM Oli expressed appreciation towards all professionals in the frontlines of this fight against Covid-19 -- including health workers, security personnel, and other providers of essential services -- who have been carrying out their duties despite limited infrastructure including medical equipment and supplies.

He said, the government has not left any stone unturned in this fight against the pandemic and has taken all possible measures. It has been made clear how vital the role of the provinces and local levels are, said the PM, appreciating the roles of local level representatives and social organisations at this hour of need.

A network, which reaches the local levels, has been created to fight the spread of coronavirus infection. A three-fold-procedure has been created led by High-Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 formed by the government to check the spread of the virus and minimise its effects. Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) has been created to develop information systems, human resources and other resources required to combat the crisis triggered by the coronavirus infection.

As of today, there are 30,566 quarantine centres in the country, 9,168 people currently in quarantine, 3,259 isolation beds in which 95 people are under treatment. The government has been trying to prevent the spread of infection and to take necessary measures in case of an outbreak.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method of testing has begun in all seven provinces. Up until yesterday, 1,890 tests have been conducted. Preparations have also been initiated to give pace to start testing from 10 testing centres in the seven provinces. Likewise, preparations have also started to carry out Rapid Dectection Test (RDT) in districts which are currently at a high risk.

Provision of medical supplies and equipment necessary to treat COVID-19 -- 1,048 set of personal protective equipment (PPE), 11,819 gowns, 4,345 N-95 masks, 565,261 normal masks, among others -- have been managed in all the seven provinces. Other necessary medical equipment and supplies including ventilators are in the process of being made available.

During this time, thousands of Nepali citizens have returned home from different countries. Tensions mounted when many of the returnees did not heed the government request to keep themselves in quarantine and follow the safety protocol. Therefore, the government reiterates that they announce themselves to the local representatives and health workers so that necessary steps could be taken to prevent the virus spread. The negligence may otherwise cost heavily upon the family members and the entire community.

The government acknowledges the challenges faced by Nepali citizens stranded at the Nepal-India border and understands what they may be going through. But to minimise the risk of infection, we are forced to stop the movement at the international borders. In coordination with the Indian government, 2,147 Nepalis have been kept under quarantine across the border. Likewise around 700 Indian nationals have been quarantined on our side. We hope that everyone is aware that such a measure was taken to make the lockdown effective and to limit the possible virus spread. The Nepali citizens will enter the country after the completion of required time in quarantine and following necessary health check-ups.

As the virus spreads globally, infection has been seen in many Nepalis living abroad. Some of them have lost their lives. This has caused tension among the Nepali community outside. The government expressed its support and compassion towards them. Nepali diplomatic missions abroad are working to solve the problems faced by its citizens. Support has also been extended by the Non-Resident Nepali Association among other organisations. The President has been keeping updates of citizens abroad through the Nepali missions outside. Similarly, the Prime Minister too has been keeping in touch with his counterparts in nations where there are large numbers of Nepali workers.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been regularly carrying out required coordination and facilitation for the same. The Prime Minister requested all to stay safe where they are at the present time of crisis. "The dark clouds of crisis will definitely part."

International coordination and co-work is needed right now to fight the pandemic. All governments have the responsibility to protect national and foreign citizens in their respective countries. Nepal with its limited resources is also taking care of the foreigners in the country and we hope that Nepalis aboard too are receiving love and support from the respective governments.

The coming two weeks are crucial for us and might be more challenging. This period is not just the time for corovavirus symptoms to show but also a time during which the risk of spread is high. All our efforts will therefore be focused on checking the outbreak. Screenings will be carried out of those suspected of infection and second round of tests will be carried out to ensure infection status. The government hopes to receive public support for the same.

The government is distributing relief to those whose earnings have been affected by the lockdown during this crisis. To keep the economy going, contruction of some mega projects is still going on ensuring the required safety measures. The government is also contemplating on how to keep the agriculture sector going. The Prime Minister assured that the government will continue making efforts for economic development during and after the crisis.

Addressing the health professionals in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19, PM Oli stated that their efforts so far have helped the nation in controlling the outbreak and that their courage, expertise and commitment will further be required in controlling the spread. They will be protected by the government like the security personnel on duty. They will be provided with allowances and other benefits including insurance.

Moreover, allowances and benefits will be provided to others in the frontlines including security personnel, government employees, drivers, helpers, cleaning staff, among others.

Noting his earlier address, PM Oli futher said that a change in way of life is vital to fight this crisis and that saving lives is the major concern at present.

It has been made clear that we, as a world, were not ready to fight this kind of pandemic. It is natural that a country like ours with limited resources will face more challenges, said the PM, adding that his attention was also drawn towards various comments and criticisms in social media against the government and that government will not refrain from taking action against those involved in any kind of corruption.

The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation towards media during this time of crisis and requested for a further responsible role.

The history will definitely keep an account on actions taken in the fight against the pandemic. In this fight against COVID-19, social distancing is the key, and therefore, lockdown is only the way at present. Stating this, the PM requested all to become one to make the fight against coronavirus successful.

Giving an example of the time five years ago -- when all Nepalis became one -- in fighting the consequences of the devastating earthquake, Prime Minister Oli said, more lives can be protected if this crisis is taken seriously and if we display the same resilience. He added that the government is committed towards doing its duty in the fight against COVID-19.

This was the Prime Minister’s second address in 19 days and his first since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown which got its second term extension on Monday.