KATHMANDU, April 12: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has hinted at not lifting the lockdown anytime soon, saying that cases of coronavirus have just begun to rise in India which shares a porous border with Nepal and people from both the countries can cross the border points without any restriction.
During separate virtual meetings with the chief ministers of all seven provinces on Saturday, PM Oli said border restriction will be intensified in the days to come and instructed the provincial authorities not to compromise lockdown rules. Nepal had first extended the lockdown on March 24 and the most recently extended lockdown term is expiring in mid-April.
The government, however, has already decided to suspend international flights until the end of April. So far, only nine cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Nepal while testing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) suspects is underway.
The government is more concerned after cases of coronavirus increased in recent days. In India, nearly 8,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed whereas more than 240 people have died from the deadly virus.
“After seeing this [increase in coronavirus cases] in India, the lockdown can't be lifted,” PM Oli reportedly told the chief ministers. He also discussed with them, one by one, the ways to contain the spread of the virus.
The PM also urged the chief ministers not to compromise lockdown rules but to adopt all measures to stop human movement along the border points. Local governments have already been told to stop movements of people from one village to another.
By instructing the provincial government chiefs to beef up security along the Nepal-India border points, the prime minister hinted at extending the lockdown. This instruction from PM Oli comes a day after he held a telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
Thousands of migrant workers in India and Gulf countries are stuck in their labor destinations whereas hundreds of India-returned migrant works are stuck at the Nepal-India border. Some of them are left without foodstuff and proper accommodation.
During the meeting, the chief ministers complained of not having adequate medical equipment and demanded effective coordination from the federal government. In response, PM Oli assured them of arranging the needy medical supplies and improve health facilities at the provincial and local levels.
Of the total seven provinces, Province 2, Province 5 and Sudurpachhim Province are said to be at a higher risk of the outbreak because these provinces share open borders with India and cross-country human flow is higher than in other provinces.
On a different note, PM Oli, who is also a chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, dismissed the proposal floated by NCP executive chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to form a high-level political mechanism to help the government in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the country. After having consultations with the main opposition Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and other ruling leaders, Dahal had proposed forming such a cross-party mechanism to assist the government's performance during corona crisis.
PM Oli, however, turned down the proposal during his conversation with the chief ministers saying that full-fledged authorities are in place from center to local levels and they are doing their best to control the virus.“At this point, there is no need for any such mechanism,” reads a press statement issued by Surya Thapa, press advisor to Oli, following the PM's meetings with the chief ministers.