Nepal and India agree to take care of and feed each other’s citizens stranded on the border. Crossings to remain closedDecision was taken at the highest level from both sides and then communicated to local authorities.
Nepal and India have agreed to take care of each other’s citizens stranded on the border due to the lockdown on both sides of the frontier enforced to control the spread of the contagious coronavirus.
The agreement to provide food and shelter to people stranded on the border comes as thousands of Nepalis and some Indians, desperate to return home, wait for the border crossings to re-open.
“An agreement has been reached to protect stranded citizens of both the countries,” Rajan Bhattarai, foreign relations advisor to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli told the Post. With the decision, local authorities in India have started providing shelter and food to stranded Nepali citizens and officials in Nepal have begun doing the same for Indian citizens, said Bhattarai.
Read our editorial: Trapped at the border
The Oli government has come under fire for failing to anticipate an influx of tens of thousands of Nepalis working and living in India. Around 500 Nepalis remain stranded in Dharchula of Pithorgarh in India. Another 400 wait at Sunauli.
A Ministry of Home Affairs official said that at least 800 Nepalis from various parts of India started flocking to the Nepal-India border in Darchula from Saturday evening. But due to the lockdown on both sides of the border, they have been forced to stay on the Indian side without provisions of shelter and food, said the official on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
The official said that hundreds of Indian nationals who want to return home are also stuck on the border. They are demanding that they be allowed to return home, the official said.
“We have received several reports from the Tarai that hundreds of Indian citizens working in several parts of Nepal are stranded on the Nepal-India border, but they are now allowed to enter India as it is on a 21-day lockdown,” he said.
Since Saturday, the government has not allowed anyone to enter Nepal in wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Desperate to return, three Nepalis braved the Mahakali to swim home, only to be arrested by police.
Former foreign minister Kamal Thapa said that it is the duty of the government to bring back citizens stranded on the border, quarantine them, provide health facilities and ensure that they reach home.
“Several countries are bringing back their citizens on chartered flights. We have also brought back the stranded Nepalis from China,” he said.
“Stopping Nepalis from coming into Nepal is not good at any cost,”‘ said Thapa.
Meanwhile, the Darchula district administration has told Nepalis stranded on the Indian side that the lockdown in Nepal will continue until April 7, and no one will be allowed to enter the country until then.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 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 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four 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.