KATHMANDU, March 6: In view of a possible food crisis because of the spread of the new coronavirus, the government has urged local authorities to limit the export of Nepali foodstuff and essential goods to other countries. The provincial and local governments have been asked to ensure the smooth supply of foodstuff in their respective areas and to initiate public awareness measures against COVID-19.
These measures were floated at a meeting of a high-level coordination committee formed for preventing the spread of the new coronavirus and controlling its impact. The authorities fear that a food crisis-like situation could arise if neighboring countries impose a ban on the export of foodstuff to Nepal.
The government has already decided to urge the Indian government to ease the supply to Nepal of lifesaving drugs and other essentials.
The coordination committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel wants the Indian government to roll back its recent decision to restrict the supply of medicines and essential logistics.
Even as Nepal imports foodstuff from India it also exports foodstuff to India although the export is low. China has already closed the border points adjoining Nepal.
At the meeting held at the Defense Ministry, the committee members have stressed the need for intensifing preparations, pointing out that Nepal is listed among the high-risk countries for new coronavirus infections. The meeting proposed allowing the entry of Nepalis returning from coronavirus-affected countries only after screening.
Health Ministry officials represented on the committee have drawn attention to the need to screen all air passengers landing in Nepal. They pointed out that Nepalis returning from South Korea were not being screened at Tribhuvan International Airport.
In view of the coronavirus concerns, the government has decided to put in place additional quarantine facilities at all the border entry points.
The COVID-19 outbreak that originated in China has now spread to 85 countries, infecting 95,612 people including in India with which Nepal shares an open border. A case of the new coronavirus was also detected in Nepal but the patient was subsequently cured.