Kathmandu, February 3
The government is moving at a snail’s pace in finalising the location for quarantining and housing Nepalis who are desperate to return home from the Chinese province of Hubei, which has been hit hard by novel coronavirus outbreak.
The government has been holding discussion on evacuating Nepalis from Hubei since Saturday, as the disease is spreading rapidly across China, claiming at least 361 lives and infecting at least 17,205. But it has neither confirmed the date of evacuation nor finalised a place to quarantine the evacuees.
“We are still holding discussion on these issues. We will evacuate them soon and finalise the location to quarantine them by tomorrow evening,” said Mahendra Shrestha, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population.
The MoHP has proposed to quarantine China returnees at Nepal Electricity Authority Training Centre in Bhaktapur, Agricultural Development Bank Central Training Institute in Bode, Bhaktapur, Nepal Administrative Staff College in Jawalakhel or National Ayurveda Research and Training Centre in Kirtipur. The evacuees will be kept in the quarantine facility for two weeks before they are sent home.
“We are looking for a facility that is away from human settlement. We are also holding discussion on whether to hire an empty house or a place with basic facilities to quarantine evacuees,” said Shrestha.
He added, “If we are to keep them in an empty house, we must buy beds, blankets and other items.”
The quarantine facility, according to Shrestha, will have internet service, a place to engage in sporting activities and other amenities.
Those who use this facility will be kept under close observation of doctors around the clock.
At least 180 Nepalis are expected to return to Nepal from Hubei, as they have filed applications at the Nepali Embassy in Beijing requesting their evacuation.
The government is planning to evacuate them using a chartered aircraft of Nepal Airlines Corporation. The national flag carrier is currently looking for a company to spray disinfectant in the aircraft.
“We need to use disinfectant in the aircraft before and after bringing the Nepalis from Hubei,” said NAC Spokesperson Archana Khadka. NAC also needs to prepare necessary documents and submit them to the Chinese aviation authority to operate the chartered flight.
Bangladesh, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the UK and the US have evacuated their citizens from China. More countries are evacuating or planning to evacuate their citizens.
As the disease is spreading rapidly, several countries have imposed travel restrictions on China and suspended flight operation to the country.
Nepal, so far, has performed 14 laboratory tests for novel coronavirus, among which one was tested positive and results of three are awaited. The person who tested positive is fine now and out of danger.
Although Nepal is not at high risk of coronavirus outbreak, many Nepali and Chinese nationals returning from China are visiting Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital for tests.
According to STIDH, more than 60 people have visited the hospital for the test since the coronavirus outbreak.
Sujan Neupane, 23, a student living in Guangzhou who arrived in Nepal yesterday, was one of those people who had visited the hospital for the test.
“Though I haven’t shown any symptom, I want to be assured that I don’t have the infection,” he said.
“We are providing counselling service to all those who have returned from China,” said STIDH Spokesperson Dr Anup Bastola.
“We immediately admit those with severe acute respiratory infection,” added Bastola.
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A version of this article appears in print on February 04, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.