KATHMANDU, Aug 6: Although the government earlier announced to resume long-distance public transport and lift the suspension of domestic and international flights beginning next week, a sudden spike in the cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in various parts of the country including the Kathmandu Valley has forced the government to rethink its plan to go for a ‘loose-down”.
Highly-placed government sources said senior officials of all ministries concerned are holding a meeting on Thursday to assess the situation and take a decision whether to allow the operation of long-distance public vehicles and domestic as well as international flights from August 17 as planned earlier. “A meeting has been planned for later today [Thursday]. The meeting will assess the situation and make an appropriate plan,” a source at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) told Republica.
The government on July 21 had partially lifted the lockdown 120 days after it was first enforced on March 24 to contain the possible spread of the COVID-19. The government had then announced its plans to resume long-distance public transportation services, domestic and international flights, training sessions and preliminary stages of international games, student admission, academic and other examinations from August 17.
During an interaction with a group of journalists on Wednesday, Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal said that the government’s earlier decision to resume the services of long-distance public vehicles and domestic as well as international flights will be reviewed as the situation of COVID-19 has been getting worse in recent days.
The health ministry had earlier predicted that the cases of COVID-19 would reach the highest point on August 9 and this situation will continue to remain till August 18. Although the number of COVID-19 cases is lower than anticipated, the government is in a dilemma whether to resume the long-distance public vehicles and aviation services. “We had earlier announced to open various sectors including education and aviation services from August 17. This will be reviewed keeping in view the situation of COVID-19 infection,” said Minister Dhakal.
With 381 new cases reported on Wednesday, Nepal’s COVID-19 tally reached 21,390. A total of 63 people have already died of COVID-19 in the country as of Wednesday. Amid the rising number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases across the country, the government on Wednesday decided to enforce odd and even rules for both public and private vehicles except those belonging to essential services starting Thursday.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) announced to enforce the odd and even rule for all types of vehicles in the three districts of the Kathmandu Valley and other districts that have reported more than 200 COVID-19 cases. The MoHA has decided to restrict movement of people between 9 pm to 5 am in these districts in order to contain the possible spread of COVID-19. All passenger vehicles are also banned from entering the Kathmandu Valley between 7 pm to 7 am.
The decision comes a day after the government held consultation with political leaders representing different parties and health experts at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Baluwatar. They had all suggested taking some concrete measures to curb the possible spread of COVID-19. The MoHA has also decided to effectively enforce the safety guidelines including wearing masks while warning of stringent action against individuals, groups or institutions involved in violating the safety guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Population.