Government decides to lift the four-month-long coronavirus lockdown, but with conditionsProvisions related to Covid-19 prevention, control and treatment will continue.
Tika R Pradhan
The government has announced an end of the nationwide lockdown that it had imposed starting March 24 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Minister for Finance and Communication Yubaraj Khatiwada, who is also the government spokesperson, told a press briefing that Monday's Cabinet meeting had decided to lift the lockdown effective from Tuesday midnight with a few restrictions such as a ban on large gatherings still in place.
The government had imposed the nationwide lockdown in March, after two cases of Covid-19 were reported in the country.
Nepal so far has reported 17,994 Covid-19 cases with 40 deaths. According to the Health Ministry, so far 12,477, or 69.34 percent of the total infected individuals, have recovered from the disease.
The lifting of the lockdown will mean unrestricted movement of people and transport services. Business will also be allowed to operate 24/7.
“All the provisions including the two shifts for government offices and odd-even rules [for private vehicles] would be lifted with the lifting of the lockdown,” Khatiwada said.
According to Khatiwada, all other provisions related to Covid-19 prevention, control and treatment will, however, continue.
People are required to maintain social distancing and wear masks, said Khatiwada.
The decision, however, seems to have been taken under pressure, as dissatisfaction was growing—not because the government had imposed the lockdown but because it had failed to properly communicate the measures it was taking to help businesses, expand testing and provide relief to the general public, especially those from the lower economic strata.
“The lockdown gave us psychological terror and became a guise for many things,” said Khatiwada. “It's not that there is no risk of Covid-19. We need to continue with the safety protocol.”
The decision to lift the coronavirus restrictions comes a day after the government said all international and domestic airline services will resume starting August 17.
The government has also allowed hotels and restaurants to open from July 30 but partying and gatherings will not be allowed.
The government has also opened the trekking and mountaineering activities from that day.
“The objective of the decision is not to hamper the upcoming tourist season in autumn,” said Khatiwada. “The decision will allow travel trade entrepreneurs to start bookings for the upcoming tourist season.”
The autumn—September to November—season, which attracts a third of the total 1.2 million tourists visiting Nepal, does not generally draw tourists for Mt Everest, but hordes of adventure seekers come to Nepal for trekking. Many small peaks see heavy traffic during the autumn season.
Restrictions on long distance public transport will also be lifted from August 17.
The government has also scrapped the odd-even rule on private vehicles from Wednesday.
Khatiwada said the existing provisions could be changed and more restrictions imposed if the Covid-19 cases increase in the future.