Nepal closes land border with India, China

Sunday's cabinet meeting at the prime minister's resident in Baluwatar, the first since Prime Minister Oli had his second kidney transplant two weeks ago. Photo: PMO

Nepal’s Cabinet decided on Sunday to close all land border crossings with neighbouring China to the north and India to the south for one week starting Monday.

The move came after unconfirmed reports that a Nepali businessman who had gone to Patna for treatment had been diagnosed with a coronavirus infection at a hospital there.

The businessman had recently got a kidney transplant in Sri Lanka and had returned to the border town of Birganj last week via New Delhi and Kolkata. He was sent to Patna after suffering from a cold, but Department of Health Services spokesperson Mahendra Shrestha said it was not confirmed if he indeed has COVID-19.

Family sources also confirmed that the businessman, J Rungta had in fact tested negative for coronavirus, and that media reports were “fake news”.

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Meanwhile, the Cabinet decision came hours before Sunday midnight when all international flights from Kathmandu will be banned till 31 March  Ferry flights by Etihad, Qatar Airways and others will still be landing in Kathmandu till Wednesday to fly out tourists and expatriates stranded in Nepal.

Prime Minister Oli had also announced that all intercity long-distance buses will stop plying in Nepal from Monday. This has sent people scrambling to get out of Kathmandu Valley to their home districts in overcrowded buses and even lorries. Local public transport will be allowed to operate.

Cabinet also decided to set up a Rs500 million fund to help medical personnel in Nepal acquire personal protective equipment including masks and gowns. The ministers agreed to donate one month salary each towards the fund.

Meanwhile, towns in the central Tarai in Siraha, Saptari, Dhanusha, Parsa and other districts along the Indian border have closed border checkpoints in consultation with authorities on the other side. This is important because the Cabinet decision would have closed only the main border checkpoints.

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