KATHMANDU, March 3: Nepal has taken a slew of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has emerged as a global health epidemic, after the World Health Organization (WHO) said this Himalayan nation is at a very high risk of the fatal disease.
The government has formed a team led by secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister, Narayan Bidari, to monitor the situation and take appropriate measures on the ground to prevent its spread in Nepal, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
The new team has been formed in addition to the High Level Committee formed under the Prime Minister K P Oli to take precautionary measures against the possible spread of coronavirus. The committee comprises of ministers from various key ministries including Home, Defense, Finance, Foreign, Health, Tourism, Industry, Agriculture and Education.
While the on-arrival visa for those coming from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Oman has been suspended for the time being, the government has introduced universal health screening to all the incoming passengers at Tribhuvan International Airport as precautionary measure. The government has also started screening passengers of third countries who arrive here via India.
Although all those put under quarantine in Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) buildings in Kharipati, Bhaktapur, were released on Monday, the government plans to keep the facility as it is to quarantine others arriving from countries affected by coronavirus.
Similarly, the government has arranged 100 isolation beds in various hospitals in Kathmandu and directed provincial hospitals to make necessary arrangements to have isolation wards as precautionary measures.
All the incoming passengers will now need to submit a health card to the concerned government authorities in Nepal to prove that they are not tested positive for coronavirus.
“We have made necessary arrangement to immediately send them to hospital in case any of them travelling to Nepal reported any issues related to coronavirus,” said Gyawali.
The government has also issued travel advisories to Nepali nationals not to visit the countries that have reported cases of coronavirus except when it is absolutely essential. This comes in the wake of Bahrain not allowing entry to 30 Nepali workers amid fear of coronavirus spread. The Nepalis travelling to Baharain to resume their work via Dubai were returned to Kathmandu on Sunday.
As a precautionary measure, the government has stopped issuing No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the students wishing to pursue further studies in the countries that have already reported cases of coronavirus and asked South Korea to put on hold the process to send Nepali workers through EPS system until the situation of coronavirus outbreak normalizes.
According to Minister Gyawali, the government is closely assessing the situation and its possible repercussion in Nepal in order to take measures to address them in advance. Concerned government authorities are taking necessary measures to address possible shortage of pharmaceutical products and food supply.
Amid growing concerns of the spread of coronavirus, the government has already decided to cancel all promotional programs of Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, Sagarmatha Sambaad 2020 and other major international events. The government is also mulling to suspend flight operation from various countries that have reported cases of coronavirus. Similarly, it has also suspended on-arrival visa to citizens from various countries.