No COVID-19 infections in Nepal, says Health Secretary


KATHMANDU, March 17: Nepal has no news cases of coronavirus infection, said Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population Yadav Prasad Koirala.

Since the outbreak in Wuhan, China on Dec 31, the pandemic has infected 173,344 people in 152 countries and territories and killed 7,019, as of Tuesday.

Nepal has confirmed only one case of virus so far. A student from Wuhan, who had come to Nepal on holiday, had tested positive on Jan 24. 

Koirala said Nepal has stepped up measures to block the virus from entering into Nepal.

“We had applied internal measures to prevent the possible outbreak of the virus in Nepal. We imposed travel restrictions and suspended visa-on-arrival to foreign nationals and NRA cardholders. We have blocked entry to anyone without prior a swab test. The travelers to Nepal with prior valid visas are required to submit a swab test PCR health certificate issued a maximum seven days before the arrival date at the immigration office at the TIA. Likewise, the travelers arriving in Nepal has to stay at home/self-quarantine for a period of 14 days,” said Koirala.

“We have tightened security check at check posts with open borders. For that, we have arranged immediate medical check-up facilities at concerned rural municipalities and municipalities. Also, we have brought the people showing symptoms similar to the virus to Kathmandu for lab tests,” he added.

“So far, we have tested about 600 patients. But none of them have tested positive.”

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He also refuted the reports that the works of the high-level coordination committee led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokharel formed to take precautions against the COVID-19 has been ineffective.

“The high-level panel had directed the concerned ministries to make necessary efforts of their side to prevent the virus. That’s why we are free of infections till now.” 

“Next, we are arranging 1,000 isolation beds in Kathmandu. We have also forwarded the procurement process for additional 120 ICU beds (20 beds each at Bir Hospital, Patan Hospital, the Kritipur-based Ayurvedic Teaching Hospital, the Teku-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, the Satungal-based Nepal Armed Police Force Hospital and the Chhauni-based Army Hospital).”

“Outside valley, we have provided Rs 20 million each to all seven provinces to arrange 120 ICU wards.”

On Sunday, the federal government summoned the chief of local and provincial governments to discuss and prepare a joint plan to prevent the outbreak.

“We have directed the local government to form a committee and assign it to monitor every ward for the possible infection, record newcomers and isolate the patients with suspected cases. Likewise, the government has directed the provincial governments to prepare for the possible outbreak that includes preparing beds in hospitals, mobilizing health workers, purchasing required materials, said Koirala.

When asked when the isolation and ICU wards with 1,000 beds will be readied, he said: “We have 350 beds ready and started the procurement process for 600 beds. There is an international crisis. But we are doing what we can. It will take at least 10 days.”

Koirala also asked the SEE students to attend their exams without fear.

“The health workers will screen the students before letting them inside the hall. If anyone shows the symptoms similar to the virus, they will attend the exam in isolation,” he said.

“If they are unable to give the exams, they will be sent home.”

“Moreover, catching cough and common cold does necessarily mean we have the COVID-19.”

“Therefore, there is no need to be afraid of,” he added.