Government extends lockdown until May 18International flights to be suspended and border to remain sealed until May-end.
The government on Wednesday decided to extend the nationwide lockdown until May 18.
“Today’s Cabinet meeting took the decision to continue the lockdown in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country,” said Padma Kumari Aryal, minister for land management, cooperatives and poverty alleviation.
Nepal has been on lockdown since March 24 to contain the spread of the virus.
On April 26, the government had extended the lockdown, the third time, until May 7.
When the government first announced the lockdown, Nepal had reported just two Covid-19 cases. But this week alone, 23 new cases have been reported, with the national tally reaching 82. There have been no deaths.
Minister for Law and Justice Shiva Maya Thumbahamphe told the Post that the Cabinet also decided to continue the suspension of international flights and seal the border until the end of May.
Wednesday’s Cabinet decision to extend the lockdown is in line with the recommendation of the high-level committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19.
Concerns, however, have been growing if extending the lockdown is the only solution, with experts warning of the economy being hit hard if the government does not plan gradual relaxation of restrictions in some sectors like industries and agriculture.
Critics say the government failed to utilise the lockdown over the last six weeks to step up measures to trace and treat and find ways to gradually lift lockdown.
The government seems to be waiting for India’s response and is following suit, without considering its own ground reality into consideration.
A day after Nepal went on lockdown, India declared its lockdown on March 25. On Friday, the Indian government extended the lockdown for another two weeks after May 4, allowing ‘considerable relaxations’ in lower-risk districts that are marked as green and orange zones.
Discussions to mark districts as red, yellow and green zones had been going on tentatively in Nepal too, but the high-level committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19 during its Tuesday’s meeting dropped the idea, saying it’s not feasible.
“Since the concept of different zones isn’t appropriate for a small country like ours, today's meeting discussed the idea but dropped it for now,” Narayan Bidari, member-secretary of the committee, told the Post on Tuesday evening.
The committee on Tuesday then decided to recommend the government continuation of the lockdown while putting no restrictions on essential services and gradually easing the lockdown in the industrial and agricultural sectors.
The Cabinet also decided to tighten entry points to Kathmandu and keep records of those who need to travel for emergency situations like for health checkups.
According to the Health Ministry, Province 1 has reported 31 Covid-19 cases, Province 2 has reported 13, Bagmati 7, and Gandaki has reported two.
Similarly, Province 5 has reported 24 cases and Sudurpaschim has reported 5 cases. No Covid-19 cases have been reported in Karnali Province so far.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of June 2, 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. Covid-19 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,321,836 people with 375,657 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 198,140 with 5,608 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 72,460 confirmed cases with 1,543 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 1,811 cases with eight deaths.
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.