Kathmandu, March 29
The government today decided to extend the nationwide lockdown till April 7 as the number of COVID-19 cases rose to five since the lockdown was announced on March 23.
A meeting of the Cabinet held in Baluwatar this evening took a decision to this effect.
“The directive issued as per the Infectious Disease Act 1963 has been extended till April 7 midnight,” said Minister of Finance, Communications and Information Technology Yubaraj Khatiwada at a televised press conference after the Cabinet meeting.
On March 23, the government had announced a weeklong nationwide lockdown from March 24 till March 31.
The Cabinet also decided that restriction of people’s movement through international borders on both northern and southern sides would be extended till April 7 midnight. Movement of vehicles carrying goods, however, will continue as usual.
The government formed a ‘Corona 2019 Crisis Management Team’ under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel. The team will basically ensure implementation of the government’s decision to prevent and control novel coronavirus.
Other members of the team are Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, Finance Minister Khatiwada, Industry and Supplies Minister Lekh Raj Bhatta, Federal Affairs Minister Hridayesh Tripathi and chiefs of security agencies.
The government has decided to extend suspension of incoming international flights till April 15.
A separate meeting of the high-level coordination committee for the prevention and control of novel coronavirus took the decision earlier in the afternoon.
The government had on March 20 decided to halt international flight operations at Tribhuvan International Airport from March 22 to March 31. Domestic flights have remained suspended since the country went for a nationwide complete lockdown on March 24.
The government has also decided to take stern action against those not willing to stay in quarantine, fleeing quarantine or not informing the authorities about their possible exposure to COVID-19. The committee led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel decided that such individuals would be sent to jail and the home ministry would coordinate in this regard.
The government also decided to take security agencies’ help while setting up and operating quarantine facilities across the country.
It was decided to deliver medical equipment received from China, such as personal protective equipment, to the provinces as per their need. Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the committee’s Member Secretary Ram Prasad Bidari said the government received five units of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines, which were used for the test of COVID-19 infection.
He said four of the machines would be delivered to Karnali, Sudurpaschim and provinces 1 and 5 immediately. One machine will be kept in Kathmandu and will be sent to places where needed. Testing has already begun in Dharan.
“As we receive more equipment, we’ll deliver it to the provinces,” said Bidari. “The government will also deliver 1,000 units of PPE to each of the seven provinces, besides other equipment and medicines.” The government has also decided to let Nepalis, who are stuck at border points on their way back home, enter Nepal showing their identity cards. However, they will be allowed in on the condition that they compulsorily undergo a 14-day quarantine at the nearest quarantine facility. All their details will also be taken. The exercise will be carried out in coordination with provincial and local governments.
In the case of Nepali students living in foreign countries, parents can send them money from Nepal and Nepal Rastra Bank will make necessary arrangements for the same. “Nepali students have been urged to stay safe wherever they are. They have been requested to return only after the situation becomes normal,” said Bidari.
The government will also seek help from security agencies to ensure smooth supply of food, medicines and daily essentials. “The government will leave no stone unturned to ensure that supply remains smooth,” said Bidari.
A version of this article appears in print on March 30, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.
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