Nepal “alert” in preventing COVID-19 spread, says PM Oli

coronavirus outbreak

KATHMANDU, March 15: Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli Sunday said Nepal is alert in preventing the possible outbreak of the COVID-19 and has taken several measures to stop the pandemic from entering the country.

“We have taken several measures to enhance our preparedness. Our efforts at the moment are geared towards preventing this disease to enter into our country,” said the prime minister while addressing a video conference of SAARC leaders to chalk out a joint strategy to fight the virus.

Nepal has reported only one imported case of COVID-19 so far, the virus has infected 152,142 people in 141 countries and killed 5,720.

“I am personally overseeing and guiding government efforts.  Multi-agency coordination committees have been set up at the center, provinces and local levels to mobilize government efforts in a synergetic manner,” Oli explained.

Nepal on Friday suspended visa-on-arrival to all foreign nationals and NRN cardholders, and restricted movement of third-country nationals via land routes effective from March 14 to April 30 in a bid to prevent the virus, while foreigners with a prior valid visa will be required to submit a swab test PCR health certificate issued maximum seven days before their arrival date to Nepal. The government also postponed the labor approval until further notice.

“We have restricted international movements. Visa-on-arrival facility for all foreigners and Non-resident Nepalis with foreign passports has been suspended. Movement of third-country nationals via land routes has been suspended. Swab test PCR health certificate is made mandatory to obtain a visa from Nepali missions abroad for essential travels to Nepal,” he said.

“We have suspended the issuance of work permits for Nepali nationals for overseas employment.”

Likewise, the government has made it mandatory to self/home quarantine oneself for a period of 14 days if one (with diplomatic, official, business, study and working visa) should enter Nepal.

“International passengers are required to go through the screening process at the health desk at the international airport. There are provisions for self-quarantine for certain categories of travelers. We are strengthening quarantine facilities in all provinces. Hospitals have arranged isolation wards and intensive wards for treatment,” he said.

Likewise, the government also suspended the permits (issued and to be issued) for mountaineering expeditions for the spring 2020 season.

“We are enhancing the capacity of hospitals. Health workers are being provided with personal protective equipment and the necessary incentives to motivate them.

“All the permits for mountaineering expeditions for Spring 2020 have been suspended and all major international conferences have been postponed,” he added.

Oli also called for a collective fight against the spread of the virus through awareness while urging the SAARC members to help each other in urgent need.

“Our region is at high risk of COVID-19.  The epidemic knows no boundary, no nationality, and no region; therefore, we need to devise ways to combat this pandemic collectively. It is a common challenge; and it demands common efforts.

“First thing is awareness creation. Community-based organizations and medical and non-medical volunteers could be mobilized in raising awareness and supporting Government agencies,” he said.

“We have to appeal to our people to avoid non-essential foreign travels and to avoid attending mass-gatherings and other large scale events.”

“Our way of greetings people with Namaste, rather than shaking hands, can avoid the potential threat of human-to-human transmission of the virus.”

“I believe that our region holds a good stock of emergency medical supplies, well-trained medical professionals and laboratory facilities. These could be deployed at the call from any Member State of SAARC in urgent need.”

“The hospitals in the bordering areas could also be utilized for the screening as well as treating infected patients if coming from across the borders.”

“We need to ensure a smooth supply of essential medicine, equipment and sanitary materials in the region.”

Photo: Prime Minister’s Press Advisor