Restrictions imposed on various activities and services in Valley to curb virus spreadPublic gatherings, religious activities, roadside vending have been banned and restaurants asked to provide takeaway services only.
Chief district officers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur have decided to enforce restrictions on various services and activities that involve people’s movement, effective Friday midnight for 17 days in light of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Valley and its possible impacts on public health.
“Three chief district officers of the Kathmandu Valley have separately issued some restriction orders,” said Narayan Prasad Bhatta, the Lalitpur CDO. “The decision was taken by a joint meeting of the district security committees.”
The orders issued as per Clause 6 (3) of the Local Administration Act-2028 would be in effect from Friday midnight to August 31 midnight.
On Wednesday, the Home Ministry stopped issuing vehicles passes to exit or enter the Kathmandu valley.
Mass gatherings in open spaces, all kinds of jatras, fairs and festivals and religious activities have been banned. Cinema halls, party palaces, salons, beauty parlours, spas and gyms will also remain closed until August 31 midnight.
The local administration offices of the Valley have also banned people from operating businesses on streets, asking the vendors to shut their roadside shops. People will not be allowed to sell vegetables, fruits, clothes or any other items on bicycles and pushcarts. Collection of scraps also has been halted.
The local administration has banned seminars and training programmes of all sorts. Educational institutions will also remain closed.
There’s no change in the odd-even rule for vehicles—private and public—but they will have to strictly follow health protocols.
Officials said there won’t be any restrictions on people’s movement, but authorities will keep an eye if members of the public are following basic health protocols like wearing masks.
Concerns were growing lately about the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Valley.
The national Covid-19 tally has reached 25,551, with 594 new cases on Friday. According to the Health Ministry, 99 people so far have died of the disease. Four people lost their lives to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.
In Kathmandu Valley, 119 new cases were reported on Friday—83 in Kathmandu, 30 in Lalitpur and six in Bhaktapur. The tally in Kathmandu Valley reached 1,696 on Friday with 1,360 in Kathmandu, 220 in Lalitpur and 116 in Bhaktapur.
After the lifting of the lockdown on July 21, cases started to rise at an alarming rate, but the federal government said there won’t be any other lockdown.
It then decided to give the authority to local governments and district administration offices to take measures—from putting restrictions on public activities to imposing prohibitory orders—as they deemed fit after assessing the situation. As many as 25 districts have issued prohibitory orders to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Ten of them have issued the order throughout the district and 15 partially.
The government has tightened entry of people to Kathmandu Valley from various points and banned public and vehicular movements from 9pm to 5am.
When Nepal went into lockdown, the country had reported just two Covid-19 cases. By the time it was lifted after four months, the coronavirus infections had crossed the 17,000 mark.
The prolonged lockdown meant businesses were taking a beating while people from the low economic strata were suffering the most.
Service sector, including restaurants and hotels, is among those hit hardest by the pandemic.
After the lockdown was lifted, restaurants in the Valley had started to open up slowly.
Araniko Rajbhandari, president of the Restaurant and Bar Association Nepal, said that local administration offices of the Valley have ordered restaurants to operate only the takeaway services.
“We have been following strict health and safety protocols. It’s not reasonable to ask the restaurants to close down again after allowing them to open,” said Rajbhandari. “It would have been better if authorities monitored restaurants to see whether they were following health and safety protocols. Closing businesses is not the solution to tackle the spread of the virus.”
According to him, almost all the restaurants have shut down except a few offering takeaway services.
“We had opened hotels from July 30 as part of our preparation to welcome tourists, hoping that reopening of international flights from August 17 would bring in some foreigners to Nepal,” said Binayak Shah, vice-president of the Hotel Association of Nepal. “As the flight resumption plan has been postponed until September 1, we decided to close all hotels, except those which are being used for quarantine, from Friday.”
On Friday, 21 tourism organisations issued a joint statement against the inconsistent policy of the government that may hurt the entire economy and warned of a stern protest if flights and other business activities are not resumed from September 1.
As the lockdown went into its third month, there was growing pressure on the government to ease restrictions, with public health experts arguing that a complete restriction was not a solution to the pandemic.
Public health experts also argued that lockdown only helps break the transmission chain and provides an opportunity to step up measures like setting up quarantine and isolation facilities, increasing hospital beds, providing training for health workers and expanding tests.
“The orders [today] were issued to implement the recent Cabinet decisions,” said Humkala Pande, the chief district officer of Bhaktapur. “Those violating the orders would be punished as per the Local Administration Act 2028 BS.”
As per the Act, those violating the orders can be fined up to Rs500 or sentenced to one month in jail or both directly by chief district officers. Currently, authorities are slapping people with a fine of Rs100 for not wearing masks in public places.
Earlier this week, Valley Municipalities’ Forum—a grouping of 17 of the 18 municipalities of Kathmandu Valley—had proposed through the Coronavirus Crisis Management Centre that the government ban public vehicles in the Valley till August-end, but their request was turned down.
“We had demanded a ban on public vehicles as people don’t follow health protocols while using them, but the government failed to gauge the risk,” said Madan Sundar Shrestha, mayor of the Madhyapur Thimi Municipality.
“We are preparing to impose a ban on public vehicles within our municipality in view of the rising number of Covid-19 cases.”