Nepal lockdown to be extended

Photo: PMO

UPDATE: The Cabinet late on Sunday decided to extend the lockdown till Thursday, 7 May, which is Buddha Jayanti.

A Nepal government meeting of ministers is expected to endorse a committee report to extend the month-long lockdown that was supposed to expire on Monday.

However, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said although the stoppage will be lengthened, the government had not yet decided for how long, or whether some restrictions would be lifted to encourage agriculture and other economic activity to pick up.

The meeting of the Coronavirus Control and Prevention High-level Committee had recommended that the lockdown be extended in view of new clusters of the infection appearing in eastern Nepal in the past week. Udaypur district has been sealed off after 14 new cases were detected there, with most of them Indian nationals.

“The World Health Organization has downgraded Nepal from being ‘Very Vulnerable’ and re-classified the country as being less at risk, however we have not taken that to mean that the danger has passed. That is why it is advisable that the lockdown be continued,” Gyawali said.

The Cabinet is expected to approve that recommendation, and also whether the extension will be for one more week or more and whether the lockdown will be partially lifted. A taskforce headed by chief Secretary Lokdarshan Regmi has suggested that the lockdown be extended by a week. The team also recommended that industries, agricultural production, supply and other economic activity should be allowed more mobility.

Saturday’s meeting of the high-level committee also decided to extend the stoppage of all domestic and international flights till at least 15 May.

About 15% of Nepalis are outside Nepal, and there are more confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in the diaspora than within the country. So far, at least 50 Nepalis abroad have died, and there are said to be 2,300 confirmed cases among Nepalis – mainly in the UK, United States, Germany, Spain and the Gulf countries.

Gyawali said that the government was in touch with Nepal’s embassies abroad to ensure the welfare of citizens. He added: “The prime minister has been in touch with his counterparts and Nepal’s ambassadors in countries where there are most Nepalis who want to return.”

Gyawali said Nepal had received assurances that its workers will not be forcibly sent home from Gulf countries, and that they would be taken care of where they are.