March 20, 2020 07:53 AM NPT
People walking toward Nepal from India in this recent photo. Photo: Yogesh Rawal/Republica Files
KATHMANDU, March 20: As the novel coronavirus spreads across the globe including South Asia, the Nepal government is thinking about closing all borders crossing points with the southern neighbor.
Since most of the border crossing points have already been closed, Nepali authorities have been discussing whether to close the remaining border points as well. But they have not yet taken an official decision as such a move could cause a shortage of some daily essentials such as foodstuff and petroleum products.
On Thursday, a fourth death from COVID-19 was reported in India. Additionally, India has reported more than 170 confirmed cases of the virus so far.
Earlier, Indian officials had announced that they would close 18 out of the 37 border crossing points between India and countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Following the announcement, only four key border crossing points between Nepal and India – Banbasa, Raxaul, Ranigunj and Sunauli – remain operational.
Asked about the total border closure plan, Narayan Prasad Bidari, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, said both the governments can take a decision to that effect if the situation worsens.
“So far, we are fully focused on implementing the recent decisions taken by the government. But we can do that [close all other border points] as well,” said Bidari.
Worried over a possible outbreak of the virus in the country, the Nepal government on Wednesday closed all educational institutions, suspended the operation of all entertainment and recreation spaces, restricted ‘unnecessary’ movement of people and stopped international arrivals from coronavirus-affected countries till April 30.
The government has decided to restrict the entry into Nepal of nationals of all European countries, West Asia including the Gulf countries, Iran and Turkey, as well as Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, and those coming to Nepal via transit through those countries. The travel restriction will be effective from March 20 midnight till April 15. These countries have already witnessed cases of the virus.
Also, the government has urged all people not to make movements outside the home except when there are emergencies, and to restrict gatherings of more than 25 persons at ‘party palaces’, temples, mosques, monasteries and other public places, in order to avoid the possible spread of COVID-19.
In addition to the Home and Tourism Ministries of the federal government, the provincial and local governments have been entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of these precautionary measures against the threat of the virus.