KATHMANDU, APRIL 10: Tatopani Customs Office along Nepal-China border, which had remained closed for over two months, resumed operation on Wednesday with the import of first lot of healthcare materials from China.
According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Chinese authorities allowed a consignment of 7,500 units of N-95 masks and 500 bottles of sanitizer through the customs point.
This is Nepal's first imports from China from land route in two and half months after both the countries agreed to take necessary measures for quarantine and check of imported goods and safety of truck drivers and local people keeping in view the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi are the main land routes for trade with China. Nepal closed both the border points on January 29, following the outbreak of coronavirus in China. On March 25, the high-level coordination committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19, headed by Defense Minister Ishwar Pokharel, had decided to reopen the two Chinese border points to ensure supply of essentials, including medical goods, from the northern neighbor.
The government stepped up to reopen the border point after China pushed Nepali authority for the move. In a letter sent by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 2, China has suggested Nepal to open the Tatopani border for cross-border movement of goods.
Navaraj Dhakal, joint secretary at the ministry, told Republica that Rasuwagadhi route will also be opened soon after finalizing the modality of procedures of customs clearance, quarantine and preventive measures.
As per the officials of the ministry, the government has installed temporary health units for quarantine check at the Tatopani border, while officials at the customs point are provided with personal preventive equipment (PPE). Similarly, China has also taken needful protective measures on its side.
According to Dhakal, Nepal will also be allowing import of other commodities via the customs points once the bilateral trade is made risk-free from the COVID-19 spread. The sudden closure of border has left more than 300 trucks loaded with Nepal-bound goods stranded in Kerung – a Chinese town near Rasuwagadhi border.
The Tatopani border had resumed operation in May after a gap of nearly four years due to the 2015 earthquakes. However, only a few consignments made through the border point, which was one of the largest customs points of the country. Goods worth only Rs 5 billion entered the country between mid-July to mid-March of the current fiscal year compared to Rs 27 billion from Rasuwagadhi border, shows records of the Department of Customs.