Security personnel screening passengers at a border point in Parsa on Saturday. Photo Courtesy: RSS
Movement of cargo vehicles won’t be affected
KATHMANDU, March 23: To prevent a possible spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus from the neighboring countries into Nepal, the government has decided to close all the entry points with India and China for a week starting 10 am Monday.
Although the cross-border human movement will be restricted until midnight March 29, supply of goods from the countries will continue as usual, according Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who also oversees the portfolio of Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
Addressing a press conference organized at Singha Durbar – the principal government secretariat – late Sunday evening to inform about the decisions taken by the cabinet meeting held earlier in the evening, Minister Khatiwada said the government took the decision to seal both the southern and northern borders as the entire South Asia and South East Asia are heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic and there is a greater risk of the disease spreading into Nepal due to the cross-border human movement.
Nepal has a total of 37 motorable entry points with India and four with China, while the number of human trails is 128 with both the countries.
The government’s decision to seal the border with both India and China to restrict cross border human movement initially for a week comes after its decision to suspend all international flights to and from Nepal effective from March 22 to March 31 as a precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier on Sunday afternoon, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had held a discussion with Indian ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra about closing the border to restrict human movement for some time. The two sides had agreed to cooperate with each other to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The cabinet meeting on Sunday also decided to develop the Armed Police Force (APF) Hospital in Balambu in Kathmandu as a dedicated hospital to provide treatment to those affected by COVID-19. The government has decided to deploy medics from the Nepal Army, Nepal Police and APF to treat COVID-19 cases if any, according to Minister Khatiwada.
Similarly, the government has decided to set up quarantine facilities at provincial and local levels as a precautionary measure to provide quick treatment to COVID-19 patients. Minister Khatiwada said such facilities shall be developed in coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of General Administration and Local Development.
The cabinet meeting also decided to run government and public offices as usual although the government earlier announced a halt to all non-essential services from March 22 to April 3, according to Minister Khatiwada. As per the decision, all government employees require attending the offices as usual.
Among other things, the cabinet meeting has decided to set up a fund to generate necessary financial resources to tackle the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the decision, the government will contribute Rs 500 million, while all cabinet minister will donate their one month’s salaries to the fund. All generous hands are encouraged to donate the money in the fund to make the government response effective.