Govt extends lockdown by a week, borders to remain sealed

Published On: March 30, 2020 05:25 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, March 30: The government has decided to extend the nationwide lockdown for the second week until next Tuesday as the country continues to record new cases of coronavirus.

With a total of five confirmed cases of the deadly virus and many more suspected of being infected, a cabinet meeting on Sunday decided to extend the lockdown until April 7, informed government spokesperson Yuba Raj Khatiwada.

"The government has decided to continue enforcing the infectious disease control law until the midnight of April 7," said Khatiwada, who holds the portfolios of finance and communication ministries. "Nepal's international borders will also remain closed until April 7," added Khatiwada, after emerging from the meeting held at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Baluwatar.

With the cabinet decision, Nepal enters into the second week of lockdown from Tuesday after the government imposed the restriction on March 24.

Last week, the government had decided to enforce a week-long lockdown to limit the mobility of people, especially those returning home from foreign countries considering that the returnees could be the possible carriers of the virus that has already claimed more than 30,000 lives across the world. The government took such measure after a 19-year-old Nepali student returning home from France tested positive for Covid-19.

Praising the decision of the lockdown, political parties and stakeholders have suggested the government to concentrate on detecting, isolating, testing and treating the suspected Covid-19 patients in the country as recommended by the WHO.

Earlier, a high-level coordination committee formed to combat the Covid-19 in the country had recommended the government to extend the lockdown citing its effectiveness in containing the virus spread. According to a member of the coordination committee, the lockdown could be extended up to the third week if Covid-19 cases do not decline within the next week. India has enforced a nation-wide lockdown for three weeks until April 15 after Covid-19 cases escalated in the country.

Meanwhile, the government has also formed an action team led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel and set up a Covid-19 Crisis Management Center.

"The team will be responsible for implementing the decisions made by the high-level coordination committee on prevention of Covid-19 spread," Khatiwada said.

Upon the recommendation of the high-level committee, the government has planned to further tighten the quarantine and lockdown after reports of negligence from general public to abide by the government decisions.

The committee has also decided to allow the stranded Nepali citizens along the Nepal-India border to enter into the country under condition that they remain in quarantine for 14 days. The government has also appealed to all Nepali students abroad to stay in where they are with patience, said Narayan Prasad Bidari, a member of the committee. He further added that the central bank will facilitate the families of the needy students in sending money to them even during the lockdown.

After reports of various foreign returnees not abiding by the quarantine rules, which led to escalating the risk of Covid-19 spread in various parts of the country, the high-level committee has asked the government to strictly enforce the law.

According to the infectious disease control law, violation of quarantine or lockdown rules may result in up to six-month jail sentence and Rs 100 fine or both.

"Many people seem careless about the mandatory quarantine. We have asked the government to strictly monitor the quarantine facility and punish those violating the rules," said Bidari.

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