KATHMANDU, April 7: The government on Monday extended the COVID-19 lockdown for a third week -- until April 15. All services provided by the government except for emergency ones remain suspended and people remain confined inside their homes. Also the operation of domestic and international flights remain closed.
The existing lockdown was expiring on Tuesday midnight.
This is a second extension of the lockdown, which was first imposed for a week on March 24. Likewise, in neighboring India, a 21-day lockdown is expiring on April 14.
Even as some government officials had been considering easing the lockdown or continuing it only in high risk provinces, the government decided to continue with the nationwide lockdown as suggested by health experts. Three new cases of coronavirus including the first locally-transmitted case has left the health officials worried. They have announced that the country has entered the second level of risk with the confirmation of the locally-transmitted case.
This forced the government to extend the lockdown and take further measures to stem the spread of the deadly virus. Health officials have vowed to intensify testing of coronavirus suspects at 10 different hospitals including provincial hospitals. Lockdown rules will also be tightened further, according to government spokesperson Yuba Raj Khatiwada.
In an effort to restrict travel of locals from one village to another, the government has already stopped human movements from one local unit to another.
Worried about a possible outbreak of the pandemic, health workers are now under pressure to test all the suspected persons but lack the testing equipment. The testing of coronavirus suspected people remains a Herculean task as the efficacy of the Rapid Diagnostic Kits imported from China has been questioned by experts in various countries.
Until now, only 1600 coronavirus suspected people have been tested although thousands of migrant workers have returned Nepal from Gulf countries and India.
Of those tested, according to government's official figures, only nine have tested positive for the virus and one has returned home after recovery.
On Saturday, three new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Kailai and Kanchanpur including one locally-transmitted case. Those tested positive for the virus had returned from India after Nepal announced a nationwide lockdown whereas another woman was diagnosed after one of her relatives returned home from Dubai, UAE.
Still, thousands of India-returnee migrant workers are stuck on the Indian side of the Nepal-India border. Authorities have not yet completed the contact tracing of eight coronavirus-infected persons whereas they have yet to fully identify migrant workers especially those from India who reached home avoiding security screening.
As briefed by health ministry spokesperson Dr Bikash Devkota 9,168 patients have been placed in quarantine. Health workers want to conduct Rapid Diagnostic Test of those staying in quarantine in first phase and reverify the results through PCR testing.