Nepalis are swimming across the Mahakali to get homeAround 500 Nepali migrant workers are currently stuck at the border with India in Darchula because of the ongoing lockdown, and they're desperate to get back.
On Monday, three Nepalis swam across the Mahakali river from India to try and re-enter Nepal. They were detained on the Nepali side of the border by security personnel from the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force.
"We swam across the river to request the Chief District Officer to open the gate to the suspension bridge," said Indraraj Khatri of Dilashaini Rural Municipality in Baitadi, one of the three men.
The three men, along with 500 Nepalis, have been stranded in Dharchula, on the Indian side of the border, for four days now, as both countries remain under lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
On Friday night, Nepali authorities had rescued 225 Nepalis from Dharchula by opening a suspension bridge that connects India to Nepal. The Indian city of Dharchula is spelled slightly differently from the Nepali district of Darchula, on the other side of the border.
The bridge, however, was only open for a day, on March 24 and since then, around 500 Nepalis have gathered on the Indian side, demanding to be let in.
“We came here assuming that the bridge will be open,” said Karan Dhami, a Purchaudi local and one of the workers protesting the closure, “but it’s closed and we don’t even have any food. We have been spending our nights by the Mahakali River."
Most of the Nepalis are daily wage labourers working in Didihat, Dar and Sobala areas of India. On Sunday evening, they chanted slogans against the Nepal government, demanding that the gate be opened.
Responding to the Nepalis' plight, Sunday’s Cabinet meeting decided to allow all Nepalis stranded on the Nepal-India border to enter the country on the condition that they remain in quarantine for 14 days.
The government has mandated strict action as per the Infectious Disease Act against those who have returned from abroad but refuse to report and self quarantine themselves.
दुई दिन देखि दिनको एक छाक खाएर खुला अाकाश मुनि , पारी बाट अाफ्नाे देश हेर्दै महाकालीको पानी छाम्दै स्वदेश प्रवेशकोलागि अनुय विनय गरिराखेका नेपाली दाजुभाइ !— Narbahadur Bista (@BistaNarbahadur) March 30, 2020
तर राज्य निर्लज्ज र लाचार छ ! अाफ्ना जनता जाेगाउन सरकारको दायित्व हैन ?
However, according to Yadunath Paudel, chief district officer of Darchula, the district does not have quarantine facilities to house 500 people.
"But we are talking to the authorities and looking at solutions,” said Paudel.
The stranded workers are primarily from Darchula, Baitadi and Bajhang districts in Sudurpaschim province.
India announced a complete lockdown on March 23, which saw a mass exodus of Nepali migrant workers making their way to their home districts in Nepal. Nepal followed suit, instituting a lockdown of its own on March 24. The lockdown has now been extended until April 7 midnight.
Padam Bahadur Dhami, a local of Purchaudi in Baitadi, said he walked for three days to reach Dharchula from Didihat.
“I came up to the bridge because I heard we would be allowed in. But the pathway is closed, he said. "There are many like me waiting to cross the border and we are running out of the little money we had. How can our government allow this to happen to us?”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of June 2, 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 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,321,836 people with 375,657 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 198,140 with 5,608 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 72,460 confirmed cases with 1,543 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 2,099 cases with eight 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.