Suspend int'l flights if needed to stop COVID-19: SC to govt

Published On: March 3, 2020 08:30 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, March 3 : The Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to work seriously to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, even suspending international flights from various countries including China, Japan, South Korea, Baharain and Iran for a few days or a month, in order to protect the public.

A single bench of Justice Tej Bahadur KC issued the the directive in a stay order in the name of the government authorities—the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Health and Population, the Department of Health and Sukraraj Tropical Hospital, Teku and others.

The stay order comes in response to public interest litigation filed by advocate Purna Rajbanshi, seeking intervention by the apex court amid the rapid spread of the Covid-19 in a number of countries around the world after first surfacing in Wuhan, China. The stay order issued as per Rule 49 of the Supreme Court Rules 2017, requires the government to exercise sensitivity over the potential health hazard that the virus poses to the general public.

The court has also directed the authorities to prevent Nepalese citizens and foreign nationals from entering Nepal directly or in transit from countries already affected by the virus ,without first undergoing medical examinations, or to deny visas to foreign nationals for the time being.

Pointing out that the virus has not confined its impact to any specific geographic area, the court cautioned the authorities against the entry of the virus from any transit or customs point along the northern or southern borders.

The single bench asked the authorities to deploy competent medical personnel at all customs points to screen people seeking entry into Nepal. "The government needs to do some serious planning ," reads the order.

Underlining the people's fundamental right to health, food and a dignified life under Articles 16(1), 30 and 35 of the Constitution, the apex court asked the government to act in accordance with the Natural Calamities Act, 1964; the Natural Calamities Management Act, 2017; and the Public Health Act, 2020, and make contingency plans to fight the virus.

It has also asked the government to deal with the possible shortage of foodstuff in the market.

In his public interest litigation, advocate Rajbanshi said the authorities had not been able to reassure the public that enough was being done for their safety.

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