Health Ministry advises govt to extend lockdown up to 21 days

COVID-19, coronavirus

KATHMANDU, April 4: Ministry of Health and Population has advised the government to extend the nationwide lockdown by another week to contain the spread of the COVID-19.

A joint meeting of the health ministry officials, epidemiologists and health experts held on Friday suggested the government to extend the lockdown by at least seven days while easing the restrictions.

Nepal has confirmed six cases of coronavirus, including one recovery, so far – all of them are imported cases. There were reported in Kathmandu, two in Baglung and one in Kailali districts.

But the fears of the spread of the pandemic still remain as thousands of Nepalis have returned to the country from India and other countries, and the contact tracing remains a hard job.

Of the five unrecovered cases that were reported over the past two weeks, three had traveled to Nepal in the same Qatar Airways flight.

According to reports, 458 passengers had shared flights with COVID-19 patients from Qatar, Sharjah and New Delhi. Of them, 158 had shared Qatar Airways QR652 flight from Doha to Kathmandu in which the second, the fifth and the sixth cases arrived in Nepal. The third patient returned via Air Arabia G9537 which carried 170 passengers. Likewise, 130 passengers landed in Kathmandu from Delhi via Vistara Airlines UK 155 which was shared by the fourth patient.

Although many have come in contact with the police, it remains almost impossible to trace whom they went in touch with since they returned as they had reached their home via other means of transportation.

“Once the lockdown is lifted, people will start moving here and there, thus, growing the chances of transmission,” said Dr. Khem Karki, advisor of Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal.

“We must first make sure the returnees stay at home-quarantine and test negative for the virus because the symptoms may develop even after two weeks and begin spreading afterward.”

“Thus it is wise to extend the lockdown to assess their health,” Karki added.

Hours after the second case was confirmed, Nepal enforced a week-long nationwide lockdown from March 24. But, as cases jumped to five within a week although none of them were domestic, the government extended the lockdown until April 7.

Health experts have also advised a minimum of 21-day lockdown given the nature of spread and infection of the virus so that it could be contained.