Nepal | August 12, 2020

Nepal unlikely to evacuate citizens from China


Ujjwal Satyal
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Kathmandu, January 30

The government today officially said it does not have any immediate plans to evacuate Nepalis living in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 170 people in China, as it lacks proper facilities to quarantine and isolate the evacuees.

The number of Nepalis living in Wuhan is not exactly known. But 190 Nepalis living in Wuhan and five other neighbouring cities in Hubei Province have contacted the Nepali Embassy in Beijing.

“Majority of Nepalis living in Wuhan have demanded that they be airlifted to Nepal immediately,” Sushil Lamsal, deputy chief of mission at the Nepali Embassy in Beijing, told THT over phone.

His statement comes at a time when Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has posted a video report prepared by a Chinese media on her Twitter post, saying, “Nepali students in China got interviewed by CMG reporter: we are safe and healthy in Wuhan. Let’s join hands to fight for victory.”

But responding to the Chinese ambassador’s tweet, Ashok, who has identified himself as a student in Wuhan, tweeted: “I am in the same university, but I feel opposite with their comments [sic]. I can say this is totally unfair to publish only positive [sic].”

He ended his Twitter post saying, “We are panicking here.” Like Ashok, many Nepalis in Wuhan are increasingly feeling unsafe and they want the government to do something, according to Gaurab Pokharel, a medical student in Wuhan. “They are so angry that they have accused the Nepal government of doing nothing in a WhatsApp chat group formed by the Nepali Embassy in Beijing,” Gaurab Pokharel told THT over phone.

But their demand is unlikely to be met by the government anytime soon.

“We don’t have proper equipment at the airport to quarantine returnees. Neither do we have medical facilities to isolate those suspected to have been infected with the disease,” Mahendra Shrestha, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population, told a press meet today. “So the only option we have is to wait for the condition to improve in China, as the Chinese government has asked for eight to 10 days to stop the contagion.”

A number of countries, such as the US, Australia and Singapore, that are planning to evacuate their citizens, have set up quarantine facilities at faraway places to avoid contagion.

The US, for example, which has evacuated around 200 citizens, has kept the evacuees at a military base in California, according to BBC.

They will be kept there for at least 72 hours.

Australia is planning to quarantine its evacuees on Christmas Island, around 2,000 km from the mainland, while Singapore is setting up a quarantine facility on Pulau Ubin, an island northeast of the mainland, the BBC said.

“As more and more countries are moving their citizens out of China, the panic level among Nepalis living in Wuhan has heightened,” said Lamsal. “But it is not easy to evacuate Nepalis immediately as we will first have to meet the Chinese safety requirements.”

The Chinese government, according to Lamsal, has asked all countries that are evacuating their citizens to submit pre-evacuation plans and procedures; evacuation plans and procedures; and details of treatment centres and procedures in home countries. “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to meet those conditions at the moment,” said Lamsal.

So far, Nepal has confirmed one case of coronavirus out of seven who were suspected of contracting the disease. The patient with coronavirus, which has no cure at this point, is out of danger now.

A version of this article appears in print on January 31, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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