Nepal, India foreign ministers to hold talks on Covid-19-related cooperationThe telephonic conversation on Friday afternoon is taking place at a time when both countries are reporting a surge in coronavirus cases, with India’s daily count crossing 100,000 days lately.
Foreign ministers of Nepal and India are holding a telephonic conversation later in the afternoon on Friday to discuss cooperation in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine supplies among others.
The telephone talk between Pradeep Gyawali and S Jainshankar is taking place at a time when both Nepal and India are witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases, with the latter reporting a massive spike in infections.
On Thursday, Nepal’s daily count of coronavirus infections stood at 332 while India reported more than 115,000 cases.
“Discussion will take place on effective monitoring of the border points, Covid-19-related cooperation and supply of vaccines to Nepal,” Gyawali told the Post.
The sudden surge of coronavirus cases in India is a cause for concern for Nepali authorities, as the two countries share a 1,800-kilometre-long open border through which people from both countries crossover.
A senior official at Covid Crisis Management Centre said health desks have already been set up at border points so as to monitor people entering Nepal from India and security agencies like Nepal Police and Armed Police Force have been asked to remain on high alert.
“We are maintaining extra vigil this time as there are concerns about new variants circulating both in India and Nepal,” the official told the Post.
Another important issue Gyawali will be discussing with Jaishankar is vaccine cooperation from India.
Nepal’s vaccination drive has faced a setback with a halt in vaccine supply from India, which has put a temporary ban on exports of AstraZeneca vaccines, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India under the brand name of Covishield, to meet demand at home amid a surge in cases.
The Serum Institute has not supplied half of the 2 million doses for which Nepal had placed an order by paying 80 percent of the total cost.
After inoculating around 1.8 million people with Covishield, Nepal suspended its vaccination drive after March 15 for the lack of vaccines.
Nepal’s plan to procure 5 million doses from the Serum Institute has been in limbo.
“Yes, the issue of vaccine supply will also figure during my talks with my Indian counterpart,” said Gyawali.
This will be the first conversation between Gyawali and Jaishankar since January when both had met in New Delhi leading their countries at the Sixth Meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission.