Nepali missions in Gulf stop approving workers’ documentsForeign employment department says no such decision has been taken by the government
Nepal’s embassies have stopped approving demand letters submitted by local employers in the Gulf seeking Nepali workers, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, leaving officials at the department of foreign employment dismayed.
The approval process was postponed until further notice following a decision by the High-Level Coordination Committee to Control and Prevent Novel Coronavirus to suspend labour permits issued to Nepali citizens, Nepali missions in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said in separate statements.
However, officials at the Department of Foreign Employment said the missions decided on their own without consulting the department. “We are talking to our missions to understand why they suddenly stopped verifying demand letters,” said Bhola Nath Guragain, spokesperson for the Foreign Employment Department, told the Post.
As per a 2018 directive, foreign employers who wish to hire Nepali workers, need to get approval from the Nepali foreign mission based in the country concerned.
“We are not in a situation that demands the approval process halted,” said Guragain. “The missions cannot halt the service even temporarily as we haven’t taken any decision in this regard,” he added. Guragain said such a suspension could only be enforced if a decision were taken by the Nepal government, or the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security or the Department of Foreign Employment.
Recruitment agencies, meanwhile, expressed concerns over the “arbitrary decision”, saying that such a move will only backfire on the labour migration sector, already going through upheavals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The embassies should furnish valid reasons for halting the approval process. One agency can not simply do this on its own,” said Sujit Shrestha, general secretary of Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, an organisation of 760 recruiting agencies in the country.
He said that the decision was taken in haste and it could clog the demand for Nepali workers in the near future. “The halt in approvals will only pile up work for the embassies,” said Shrestha. “Also, the demand letters being submitted now are for workers being recruited in next few months. This can trigger demands to slump in the coming months.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 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.