Government allows Nepali workers on their work-break to return to South KoreaA few hundred Nepali workers have been in Nepal for their vacation but could not rejoin their jobs because of the lockdown and travel restrictions.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
The government has decided to allow Nepali migrant workers, who are in Nepal during their break from work and could not fly back because of travel restrictions, to go back to their jobs in South Korea.
A Cabinet meeting on Sunday decided to let Nepali migrant workers, who could not rejoin their jobs because of the travel restriction and ongoing lockdown, return to their work in South Korea, according to Suman Ghimire, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
With the Cabinet decision, those with valid working visas for South Korea can resume their jobs after medical examination.
“Nepali workers, who have working visas of four years and ten months, sometimes return during their tenure or voluntary vacation. Due to the ongoing lockdown, they have been unable to return to their job,” Ghimire told the Post. “The Cabinet has decided to allow them to return if they so wish.”
As the country is under lockdown until May 7 and all flights have been suspended until May 15, these workers can go to South Korea only by chartered flight, according to the Cabinet decision.
According to Krishna Prasad Khanal, director with the Employment Permit System (EPS) Section of the Department of Foreign Employment, workers have been expressing their fears of losing their jobs if they do not return within the given time.
“They have to report back to their employer within three months. Some had complained of their visa expiring soon,” said Khanal. “Those workers have said they can go by booking a charter flight as well. Taking a charter flight is going to be obviously more expensive than using a regular flight. We have heard that they are arranging for a chartered flight.”
Nepali workers’ departure for South Korea has remained suspended since mid-February after the Korean authority requested Nepal to not send Nepalis for some time.
At that time, South Korea had been the epicentre of Covid-19 outside China where the pandemic started in December. However, the Korean authorities have impressively succeeded in flattening the curve since then and are containing the virus through aggressive testing and contact tracing.
But the impact of Covid-19 on Nepali workers’ departures for South Korea, where over 60,000 Nepalis have reached to work since 2008, has remained visible. Aspiring migrant workers, who were selected for Korean jobs for the year 2020 have not reached, and dates of Korean language tests for new candidates have also remained uncertain due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis that has affected both countries.
According to Khanal, nearly 500 to 600 returnee migrant workers could benefit from the decision. These workers have to visit Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital for medical examination to ascertain that they are in good health to travel and have no symptoms of Covid-19.
The Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), in a statement, said they would be chartering a Nepal Airlines flight to carry Nepali workers back to South Korea. According to the statement, they have completed the necessary paperwork with the Nepal Airlines depositing a guarantee amount of Rs20 million.
The NRNA has said they would be taking back a total of 1,003 Nepali workers who could not travel to South Korea despite completing the procedure and having visas.
“The latest decision is only for those who have been in Nepal during a work break—not for first-time migrants to South Korea,” said Khanal. “The NRNA has not contacted us regarding chartered flights and carrying Nepali workers to South Korea.”
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.