More than 200 Nepalis stranded at the border point in Kanchanpur brought homeDistrict Administration Office in Rupandehi is preparing to bring Nepali migrants stuck in quarantine facilities in the bordering Indian town of Nautanwa.
In the past two days, the local administration in Kanchanpur brought back 242 Nepalis stranded at the no-man’s-land near Bramhadev in the district. All of them are being kept in quarantine at Baijanath Secondary School in Mahendranagar.
“Indian security personnel brought the 242 Nepali nationals to the border area from various quarantine facilities in India,” said Bir Bahadur Sahu, superintendent of police at the Armed Police Force 35 No Battalion in Jhalari. “We were not informed about it.”
When Nepal and India went under lockdown nearly 50 days ago, many Nepali migrants were kept in various quarantine facilities in Khatima, Banbasa and Tanakpur in India.
The district administration of Kanchanpur had attempted to bring back the stranded Nepalis some two weeks ago but could not take the step without the permission of the federal Ministry of Home Affairs.
“We wrote to the Ministry two weeks ago about the situation but are yet to receive a response,” said Nurahari Khatiwada, the chief district officer of Kanchanpur. “But we can’t leave our citizens stranded, so we decided to bring them back on the condition that they undergo coronavirus tests and stay in quarantine if need be.”
According to Khatiwada, rapid tests were conducted on 235 people and all the reports were negative for the virus.
“We have yet to test the remaining seven due to a shortage of rapid diagnostic test kits. Their throat swabs will be collected soon and sent to Dhangadhi for testing through the Polymerase Chain Reaction method,” he added.
It is estimated that around 300 Nepalis are stranded in quarantine facilities in Khatima, India. They had attempted to enter Nepal on Saturday but the APF personnel had stopped them from crossing into Nepal.
Meanwhile, the District Administration Office in Rupandehi is preparing to bring back Nepali migrants stuck in quarantine facilities in the bordering Indian town of Nautanwa.
The authorities are setting up quarantine facilities and are preparing to run coronavirus tests through the Polymerase Chain Reaction method on those who will cross the border into Nepal.
However, shortage of kits to run PCR tests is a major hurdle for Nepali authorities to allow movement of people across the border and into Nepal. It is estimated that around 700 homebound Nepalis are stranded in Nautanwa-based quarantine facilities. Hundreds of Nepalis have gathered in the Bhairahawa-Sunauli border point to return home.
Nepali citizens who spent three weeks in quarantine facilities in Nautanwa have been protesting against the Nepali government with hunger strikes and sit-ins, demanding they be allowed to return home.
Chief District Officer of Rupandehi Mahadev Pantha said that the stranded Nepalis brought into the country will have to undergo coronavirus tests before they are allowed to go to their respective hometowns.
“We can’t send them home without conducting tests on them. We have demanded the federal government to provide us with 2,000 PCR kits. We can make arrangements to bring home the stranded Nepalis once the kits are supplied,” he said. According to him, the number of Nepali nationals who want to return home is increasing every day.
“The Indian authorities are also under pressure to send the Nepalis home because those at the quarantine facilities have been staging protests, demanding to be sent home. I sent Nepali officers to Nautanwa twice to convince the Nepalis not to stage hunger strikes,” said Pantha. “They will soon be brought home.”
According to Pantha, all local units in the district have been instructed to start setting up quarantine facilities to hold at least 1,000 returnees and run PCR tests on those who have spent 21 days in quarantine in India, given that the authorities are provided with enough PCR testing kits.
“We don’t know the number of Nepalis arriving at the border following the resumption of rail service in India but we expect the number to be large,” Pantha said.
Tilotta Municipality Mayor Basudev Ghimire said that the local unit, following a meeting at the District Administration Office, was holding talks to set up a quarantine facility at Tikuligad Secondary School for at least 200 people.
“We are preparing to conduct tests on all the returnees,” said Ghimire, “If the results come negative, they will head back home. We are prepared to keep them in quarantine for 6-7 days.”
Hira Kewat, the chairperson of Omsatasya Rural Municipality, said that the local unit has urged the CDO to let the returnees leave only after completing their stay at the quarantine facilities.
“It will be difficult to arrange food and accommodation for 200-300 returnees at a time,” said Kewat.
(Sanju Paudel and Madhav Dhungana contributed reporting from Rupandehi.)
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of August 14, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 20,919,243 people with 759,582 deaths and 13,441,913 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 2,461,190 with 48,040 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 287,300 confirmed cases with 6,153 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 24,957 cases with 95 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.