Lockdown leaves many incoming Nepalis in a fix at various border pointsIn Panitanki border crossing in Kakarbhitta, Jhapa, at least 100 Nepalis including 14 students who have returned from Mumbai, India on Tuesday morning are waiting to be allowed in.
The country went into a weeklong lockdown from Tuesday 6am bringing all services except essential ones into a standstill. This move has hit Nepalis, mostly migrant workers and students, who have reached various Nepal-India border points from India amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, around 1,000 Nepalis stranded at the Gaurifanta border crossing in Kailali district since Monday evening, protested against the authorities.
According to the Kailali District Administration Office, the returnees have been stopped at the crossing.
In Panitanki border crossing in Kakarbhitta, Jhapa, at least 100 Nepalis including 14 students who have returned from Mumbai, India on Tuesday morning are waiting to be allowed in.
Though they were allowed to cross the checkpoint on the Indian side of the border by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), India's border security force, after checking their identity card, the Nepali authority has not allowed them to enter Nepal yet.
"We are coordinating with the Home Ministry," said Meena Upreti, the Deputy Mayor of Mechinagar Municipality. "We have requested the ministry to allow their entry if they agree to stay in a quarantine facility in Jhapa." Uprety said that the ministry has not given any direction yet.
“Mechinagar Municipality has made a 70-bed quarantine facility,” said Udaya Bahadur Rana, the Chief Administrative Officer of Jhapa. “Similarly, there is a 32-bed quarantine facility at Kalwalgudi in Bhadrapur and a 90-bed facility in Birtamod Municipality.” The returnees will be taken to one of these facilities if they are to be brought into the country, according to Uprety.
"For now, we have requested them to stay in India," said Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajendra Pokhrel of Area Police Office, Kakadvitta, “until we hear from the administration.”
"Indian security forces tell us to go to Nepal," said one of the students caught at the border. "And Nepali security forces do not allow us to enter our own country."
Though Nepal sealed its borders with China and India from Monday at 10 am for a week, around 2,000 Nepalis entered through Panitanki crossing on Monday night.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 28, 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. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 596,349 people with 27,343 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,373, with 11 deaths. While India has reported 667 confirmed cases with 20 deaths. Nepal has so far reported four cases, in which one patient recovered.
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.