Over 400 Nepalis on their way home stranded in New DelhiMost of them work at hotels, restaurants and supermarkets in Bangalore, Shimla and Chandigarh.
Around 400 Nepalis, most of them working in various cities in India, have been stranded in New Delhi amid coronavirus lockdown. They were on their way home. Nepali migrant workers based in Bangalore, Chandigarh and Shimla, among other places, had arrived in the Indian capital city to return to Nepal.
On Sunday, India was placed under ‘people’s curfew’ announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As a result of the curfew, the travel plans of Nepalis were disrupted. Starting Monday, New Delhi has suspended all passenger trains and inter-state bus services while 75 districts of various states, including Uttar Pradesh, from where coronavirus cases have been reported, have been put under lockdown. The lockdown orders have stranded all home-bound Nepalis.
“We came to know about the closure only after we arrived in New Delhi," said Santosh Chunara of Dailekh, who was spotted at Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in Delhi.
Chunara, who works at a hotel in Bangalore, decided to return home after Covid-19 cases started to rise in India. "Fear has gripped the people, work is down. So I decided to return home,” said Chunara.
Chunara and his friends were discussing their further plans but were not sure what they should do in the time of lockdown.
"Most of us work in hotels and restaurants in Bangalore and our owners asked us to take leave of one to two months," said Pramash Tamata of Nawagadh Rural Municipality in Darchula.
With Indian police now preventing people from gathering, Nepalis stranded at the bus park are further confused.
"We are stuck on the streets here. We can't go anywhere. Police prevent us from going to any places," said Chunara.
Around 25 Nepalis are also stranded in Chattarpur in New Delhi. They were also heading home from Bangalore. They have nowhere to go as bus services have been cancelled due to a lockdown announced by the New Delhi government.
"We were planning to take a bus from here and reach Darchula through Pithoragarh. But there are no buses here and we have nowhere to go," said Tamata.
Stranded Nepalis have demanded that the Nepal government help them return home at the earliest.
"How long can we stay on roads like this? We hope the government finds a solution soon," said Chunara.
Various Nepali organisations in New Delhi said they are coordinating with the Nepali embassy in New Delhi to rescue the stranded people.
"We are trying to coordinate with the Nepali embassy in New Delhi to find ways to rescue them," said RB Khadka, central secretary of Akhil Bharat Nepal Ekata Manch. Officials at the Nepali embassy in New Delhi also said they were looking for ways to help the Nepalis stranded in Delhi and other places.
Bharat Kumar Regmi, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, said they were trying to make arrangements for the Nepalis to stay in New Delhi for a few days as borders between the two countries have been closed and India has announced shutdown in various districts to control the spread of the virus.
The Nepal government on Sunday announced border closure with both India and China for a week.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 5, 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 204 countries and infected more than 11,79,733 people with 63,908 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 2,902 with 68 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 2,708 confirmed cases with 41 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.