KATHMANDU, March 15: The government has extended the COVID-19 lockdown until April 27 continuing the suspension of all government services other than essential ones and both domestic and international flights and restricting people's movement including the overland movement through porous Nepal-India border.
Although the ongoing lockdown was expiring on Wednesday midnight, the government announced the in view of the heightened concerns as new cases of COVID-19 continue to surface.
This is the third extension since Nepal went into a nationwide lockdown on March 24. Nepal government's move came hours after India -- the southern neighbor, which shares around 1800-km long porous border with Nepal, extended the lockdown by three weeks on Tuesday.
Coronavirus cases have been increasing in both India and Nepal in recent days. In Nepal, altogether 15 of the 16 COVID-19 infected persons are receiving treatment while testing of those suspected of coronavirus infection has been intensified. On Monday, two UK returnee Nepalis were tested positive for coronavirus while they were staying at an apartment of Bhaktapur. On Monday, two more COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Rautahat and Kailali district.
The emergence of new cases has posed serious threat to public health in medically ill-equipped Nepal. As the lockdown continues, daily wage earners have been suffering the most due to lack of adequate food. Some of them desperate to reach their home villages in far-flung districts, have been setting off on foot from Kathmandu.
In India, more than 10500 people have been infected with coronavirus whereas 358 have died in the global pandemic.
Considering the possibility of further spread of coronavirus, both Nepal and India have deployed thousands of paramilitary personnel along the border. Human movement along the border areas and inside the country is strictly prohibited.
The emergence of new cases forced the Nepal government to extend lockdown and take further measures to contain spread of deadly virus. Health officials have launched Rapid Diagnostic Testing (RDT) of coronavirus suspected persons in 52 districts of the country. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 through RDT method is also tested through PCR method, which is the most reliable test available.
Lockdown rules will also be tightened further strictly keeping people inside their homes and border points are tightly screened, said government spokesperson Yuba Raj Khatiwada.
Thousands of India returnee migrant workers are stuck at Nepal-India border. They are now at the quarantine centers set up near the border.
Authorities have not yet completed the contract tracing of eight coronavirus infected persons whereas they are yet to fully identify migrant workers specially those from India who reached home avoiding security screening.