It’s more than a month since the outbreak of coronavirus in China. Death toll is rising, over 800 as of this writing, and more than 35,000 people have been infected so far. Coronavirus outbreak has sent panic across the globe. Meanwhile, many Nepali students and citizens in China have not been able to return home. The videos of these students making appeal to the government of Nepal for making arrangement for their journey back home have gone viral on social media. The government has been criticized for failing to bring them back. As many as 180 Nepali students are learned to have responded to a call by the Nepali Embassy in Beijing for arrangements to return home. Sadly, the government has not been able to bring them back as yet.
Needless to say, we must ensure that those who are returning from China are not infected. But our preparation to set up quarantine and isolation facilities to keep the returnees is not progressing fast. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has directed the concerned authorities to set up such facilities in various locations of the Kathmandu Valley. He has directed the authorities to set up and manage quarantine spots in Shivapuri, Ichangunarayan, Surya Binayak and Kharipati to keep Nepali students and citizens to be airlifted to the country from China for up to two weeks in these locations. Meanwhile, Changunarayan Municipality has protested government decision to set up quarantine facility at Kharipati. While the protest against keeping the fellow Nepalis in isolation to ensure their better health and to prevent possible outbreak is immoral, it also speaks of the level of fear the local people have about the possibility of outbreak.
In this context, the government needs to take up few actions without any further delay. First, assure the protesting locals that keeping China-returnees in isolation in their locations does not contribute to spread of infection. In any case, Chinese authorities have not allowed anyone found infected after test to leave China so as to prevent the infection from spreading elsewhere. Second, the government needs to speed up the process of setting up quarantine and isolation rooms at the earliest and equip them with all the facilities. Without doing this, we cannot think of bringing Nepalis home from China. And not bringing them back will add to the desperation of those citizens and students in China and their relatives back home. Apparently, the Chinse authorities are ready to send these students back but they are concerned about the lack of isolation rooms in Nepal to keep the returnees for up to two weeks. Thus such facilities have to be set up immediately before we bring back Nepali nationals from China. At the same time, it is also important for Nepali authorities to communicate with Nepali students in China that they are making every preparation for their journey back home. Meanwhile, the government of Nepal and various civil society groups have donated protective masks to China in solidarity with China in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak. This gesture is welcome at a time when our close neighbor is in trouble. But an important task is yet to be taken up:Bringing back the students from China who are desperately waiting to return.