KATHMANDU, March 13: A day after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, a meeting of the lower house on Thursday decided to suspend parliament for eight days.
Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota adjourned the meeting of the House of Representatives until March 20 after lawmakers demanded suspension of big gatherings including the parliament meeting. Speaking in the meeting of the parliament earlier, lawmakers from various political parties had demanded that the House meeting should be suspended as a precaution against the virus.
“The next meeting of this House will be held on March 20 (Friday),” Speaker Sapkota announced while concluding the House meeting on Thursday.
“The next meeting of the parliament has been scheduled after a week's time as demanded by lawmakers in view of a possible spread of the coronavirus,” said House of Representatives Secretary Gopal Nath Yogi.
Nepali Congress (NC) whip Pushpa Bhusal said that main opposition also agreed to suspend the House meeting as a precaution against COVID-19.
The speaker had scheduled Thursday's House meeting after a gap of six days.
While speaking in the beginning of the House meeting on Thursday, lawmakers demanded that all kinds of mass gatherings including the parliament meetings be suspended and schools be closed for a certain time to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus.
“Since there is a risk of disease transmission, there is no point continuing the parliament meetings now,” former defense minister Bhimsen Dan Pradhan said. “The government should close down schools and ban mass gathering. Because we don't have the infrastructure to tackle a coronavirus outbreak in Nepal.”
Another NC lawmaker Bharat Shah and Samajbadi Party lawmaker Renu Yadav also raised concerns over the measures taken by the government against the coronavirus outbreak. During last week's parliament meeting, some lawmakers had complained about the lack of water in parliament to wash their hands.
The government has urged public to avoid mass gathering and adopt the precautionary measures for preventing the outbreak of coronavirus which has spread over hundred countries killing 4,700 people.