Nepal goes under lockdown for a week starting 6am TuesdayAll public movement outside of the home, except to seek medical attention or purchase essential foodstuff, has been prohibited.
The entire country will go on a lockdown for a week starting 6am on Tuesday, amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19.
A meeting of the high-level committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19, led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, took the decision on Monday evening, hours after a second coronavirus case was confirmed.
Prabhat Katuwal, a personal aide to Pokhrel, confirmed that there will be a nationwide lockdown from Tuesday morning.
“Mobility of people, except for emergencies, will be halted,” Katuwal told the Post.
The Ministry of Health said on Monday afternoon that a 19-year-old Nepali student who had returned from France via Qatar tested positive for Covid-19.
“We have decided to go for a lockdown from 6am Tuesday for a week,” said Bhanubhakta Dhakal, minister for health and population, who is a member of the high-level committee.
In an eight-point order released by the committee, all public movement outside of the home, except to seek medical attention or purchase essential foodstuff, has been prohibited. All public and private vehicles, except for those with prior permission, those belonging to security forces and those for health workers, are also forbidden from the streets.
“People can come out of their homes to buy essentials as shops selling essential goods will remain open,” Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told the Post. “A specific time has not been allocated as that will cause crowds at the stores.”
Despite Gyawali’s assurances, most shops are likely to remain closed as shopkeepers too need to transport their goods and get to their stores.
For those who suspect they might have Covid-19, the government has formed a Patient Receiving Team under the leadership of the home minister to transport such suspected patients to the hospital, said Gyawali. A rescue team visit can be arranged via the nearest police station or the Health Ministry.
All flights have also been suspended, except those of security forces. Private industries, except for those involved in medicine and medical equipment, foodstuff, drinking water, milk and fuel, will have to send their employees on leave.
Anyone defying the government order will be booked under the Infectious Disease Control Act. According to the Act, violators are liable for a jail term of a month or a Rs100 fine, or with both.
All government services, except those related to daily essentials, will be closed and government officials kept on alert for emergencies.
The eight-point order, however, does not explicitly list the media or press as an essential service that will be allowed to stay open. As per the Nepal Gazette, the media and press are categorised as essential services. Point No. 4 includes information and communication services, but does not explicitly say ‘the media or press’.
At least two ministers in the Oli administration had told the Post that a decision for a complete lockdown was underway.
Speaking at a parliamentary committee on Sunday, Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta had said that the government was “studying the Chinese model” to control the spread of the virus.
After the rapid spread of the coronavirus in late December in Wuhan, China had enforced a complete lockdown, restricting the movements of more than 30 million people. That measure, however, was ultimately hailed as an effective measure in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
“The government was saying that the country would go for a lockdown if the situation deteriorated,” said Health Minister Dhakal. “That time has come.”
(Binod Ghimire contributed reporting.)
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 8, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 209 countries and infected more than 1,431,706 people with 82,080 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,351 with 160 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 4,035 confirmed cases with 57 deaths. Nepal has so far reported nine cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.