Nepalis urged to scrap foreign visits

Kathmandu, March 2

The government has issued travel advisory to Nepali citizens planning to go abroad in the wake of coronavirus epidemic that has affected more than 60 countries. It has also put in place provisions for foreigners planning to visit Nepal.

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali, Nepali citizens have been advised to postpone their plans to visit foreign countries, especially the countries already affected by the COVID-19 epidemic, for any purpose — study, work or tourism.

The government has also decided not to issue no-objection certificates to students planning to visit countries that have already been affected by COVID-19 outbreak or are at high risk of such epidemic.

As far as migrant workers are concerned, Gyawali said the government had requested the South Korean government to temporarily halt hiring Nepali nationals through the EPS system. The government has also urged Nepalis not to travel to the Middle East countries to work till further notice.

Yesterday, 38 Nepali migrant workers travelling to Bahrain via Dubai were deported. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nepalis were deported as they had come from a country designated as one of the most vulnerable countries to COVD-19 outbreak by the World Health Organisation.

The government has urged its missions abroad, especially in the Middle East countries where there are millions of Nepalis, to stay alert for rescue, evacuation or assistance in the case of an outbreak.

At a press conference organised at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gyawali said the government had also put in place provisions for foreigners arriving in Nepal. He said the latest measures were adopted after the WHO issued a warning on February 29.

As per the provisions, the government will stop issuing on-arrival visas from March 6 to foreigners coming from affected or high-risk countries, including China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan.

Anybody wanting to travel to Nepal from these countries has to acquire visa from the respective Nepali missions. “Even if a foreigner acquires a visa, they must produce a ‘health card’, stating they are not infected by coronavirus, at the immigration at Tribhuvan International Airport,” said Gyawali.

Moreover, Nepalis arriving from high-risk countries must undergo quarantine at their respective homes as per the protocol of the Ministry of Health and Population adopted in line with the protocol of the World Health Organisation.

The government has also adopted high-level caution on border entry points. Gyawali said foreigners coming from India by land must undergo health check at border entry points.

The government has already postponed Sagarmatha Sambaad slated for April 2 to 4 and shelved promotional activities for Visit Nepal 2020 initiative. It has also decided not to hold any international conferences.

“We’ll try to hold Sagarmatha Sambaad before November if all goes well,” said Gyawali.

As for preparedness for a possible COVID-19 outbreak, the government has formed a COVID-19 Prevention and Coordination Committee led by Minister of Defence Ishwar Pokhrel. The government has also formed a steering committee led by Chief Secretary Lok Darhsan Regmi and a working team led by Secretary Narayan Prasad Bidari.

The Bidari-led team had handled evacuation of 175 Nepali citizens from China. The same team is also mandated to handle quarantine and isolation wards, besides evacuation and rescue of Nepalis, both locally and internationally.

Gyawali said the government had also decided to give continuity to the Kharipati quarantine centre and had urged hospitals both in Kathmandu and outside to manage isolation wards. He said manufacturers had also been urged to boost production of face masks and sanitisers.

Stating that the COVID-19 outbreak had already hit tourism, remittance and mega projects, Gyawali said there was a need for Nepal to be prepared

for any untoward situation, such as obstruction in supply chain.