Nepal Army writes to China to expedite delivery of medical equipmentIt will take at least one more week for the cargo to arrive if the process is not sped up.
The Nepal Army has written to the Chinese government to expedite the delivery of testing kits, RNA extraction kits, masks and personal protective equipment after delays in customs clearance.
The army, which was planning to send two chartered flights to Guangdong on Tuesday to ferry the cargo, couldn’t do so as Chinese customs authorities are yet to release the cargo due the May Day public holiday. Tests for Covid-19 have slowed down Nepal due to the lack of adequate testing and extraction kits.
“We have written to the Chinese foreign ministry and the supplier to expedite the process to release the goods,” Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey told the Post. The military attaché at Nepali Embassy in Beijing is coordinating with the foreign ministry to import the medical equipment, he said.
Nepali officials have been told that it will take at least 72 hours more for customs to clear the cargo. That means that the equipment can be brought to Nepal only next week as Chinese government services are shut over the weekend.
It is unlikely the clearance process will begin before Monday unless authorities prioritise Nepal’s cargo.
The army recently signed a deal with Sinopharm, a state-owned company to supply 67 types of testing reagents and protective gear to combat Covid-19. The Chinese company will also supply real-time polymerase chain reaction machines, testing kits, RNA extraction kits, personal protective equipment, N-95 masks and sprays among others.
The army has booked two Nepal Airlines flights to 37 tonnes of goods. Some of the items will be transported via road through the Tatopani border. The Chinese company has already received over Rs 2 billion for the supply.
The government on April 2 had authorised the army to procure the items, after an earlier procurement deal with a private company, Omni Business Corporate International, landed in controversy.
However, over 35 days passed after it was assigned to procure the medical goods, the army is still unsure when its cargo will arrive. The army is also importing 53 types of medicines needed to fight the disease, from India.
The decision to bring in the army ran into controversy the moment it was made with many asking if the KP Sharma Oli administration was allowing the national defence force to turn into a business firm. Critics said the army was involved in the procurement process because it does not come under the purview of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.
Though the government assigned the army for the procurement through a government-to-government deal, it also signed agreements with three other private companies, raising questions over its intention. The department on April 17 signed three separate agreements with Om Surgical, Hamro Medi Concern and Lumbini Health Care to import medical goods.
Bhogendra Dotel, director of the Department of Health Services had said they had to sign the agreement with the private firms as they were not sure when the medical equipment under the G2G deal would arrive.