Prohibitory orders enforced in Kathmandu Valley for 15 days starting ThursdayDecision comes amid rising number of coronavirus cases in the Valley, which recorded more than half of the total infections reported across the country.
Tika R Pradhan
As hospital beds filled up and health facilities started to get overwhelmed for a lack of ventilators and oxygen with coronavirus cases continuing to soar by the day, the Cabinet has decided to enforce prohibitory orders in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur for 15 days starting Thursday 6am.
Earlier in the evening, chief district officers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur had decided to enforce prohibitory orders for a week starting 6 am Thursday and made a recommendation to the Cabinet accordingly.
But the Cabinet decided to extend the period to 15 days.
“The Cabinet has revised the recommendation made by the three valley chief district officers and decided to impose prohibitory orders for 15 days,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali told the Post.
According to Minister for Water Supply Mani Thapa, the Cabinet extended the period of restrictions because the standard time for quarantine and isolation is 15 days.
The Cabinet meeting also took several other decisions including strict monitoring at border crossings between Nepal and India, banning of making Nepal a transit country by foreign nationals and mandatory home isolation for Nepali nationals returning home and hotel quarantine for foreign nationals until they test negative for Covid-19, according to ministers the Post talked to.
Kathmandu Valley has emerged as a hotspot as infections are rising across the country.
Of the total 3,442 new cases in the country in the past 24 hours, more than half–1,912–were reported from the Valley.
A meeting of the three chief district officers of the Valley on Monday morning had decided to issue prohibitory orders.
“Our orders are identical,” said Dhundi Prasad Niroula, chief district officer of Lalitpur.
Given the sensitivity of such orders in the country’s Capital, there is a tradition of taking joint decisions by all three chief district officers, according to him.
“It’s like a lockdown though we don't use that term. Movements of people have been restricted,” Kali Prasad Parajuli, chief district officer of Kathmandu, told the Post earlier on Monday.
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last three weeks or so has left doctors and public health experts worried, as the virus appears to have taken hold in communities.
Doctors have long been calling for breaking the transmission chain, suggesting imposing restrictions on mobility could be one of the best measures. Unlike in the past, infections this time have been detected more among people in the age group of 20-24, the most mobile population in the country as well as the Valley.
According to the prohibitory orders, assemblies, seminars, training are not allowed and cinemas, party venues, swimming pools, shopping malls, places of entertainment, salons, beauty parlours, gyms, sports venues, libraries, museums and zoos are not allowed to operate. Weddings and other life rituals are allowed with not more than 15 persons but following health protocols and with prior permission from the district administration office.
Public and private vehicles will not be allowed on the roads.
However, ambulances and vehicles carrying essential supplies like water, food, vegetables, fruits, and milk will be allowed. Vehicles used in essential services like health, banking, telecommunications, sanitation as well as those used for quarantine and isolation purposes will also be allowed.
Government vehicles and public service offices vehicles are allowed with passses from the concerned ministries or departments. Those with air tickets, passports and visas will be facilitated to go to the airport.
In the case of vehicles that need to be used for essential purposes like travelling to the hospital and funeral rites, passes from district administration offices are needed.
Vehicles other than those carrying essential goods, ambulances with the sick and a maximum of one attendee, and vehicles used by health workers and security agencies will not be allowed into Kathmandu Valley.
All shops except for pharmacies and those selling foodstuffs will have to remain shut. Shops supplying foodstuffs can open only till 10am and from 5 to 7 pm while the grocery section of department stores can open from 10am to 5pm. The shops need to follow the government’s health protocols.
The employees of government offices, banks and other financial institutions and those working for essential services can move about with their respective identity cards and journalists can move about with the cards issued by the Department of Information.
The three district administration offices have also said that people entering Kathmandu Valley will have to stay in quarantine and home isolation as directed by local governments.
As the coronavirus cases have exploded in India, with which Nepal shares an 1,800-kilometre-long border, concerns were growing about the possible spike in infections in Nepal. Thousands of people cross the border every day. As the crisis deepened in India, which started reporting more than 300,000 cases a day, Nepali migrant workers started to return home. A lack of testing and quarantine facilities and holding centres could have fuelled the infections, say experts.
Some districts like Banke and Surkhet have imposed restrictions throughout the district from today while in Baglung, Kalikot and Bardiya, the district administration offices have imposed restrictions at selected places recently from different dates. Kaski has issued prohibitory orders effective from Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in Kathmandu Valley, which has a high density of population, cases have risen exponentially.
Public health experts have been criticising the government for failing to foresee a second wave despite their continuous warnings. The decline in the number of cases and the launch of the vaccination drive could have made authorities complacent and people careless, they say.
The government this time, however, has been saying it will try not to impose a nationwide lockdown like last year to the extent possible. The KP Sharma Oli administration last year earned widespread criticism for suddenly imposing the lockdown on March 24, when the country had reported just two cases. One had already recovered at that time.
When the lockdown was lifted on July 21, four months later, the number of cases had already crossed the 17,000 mark. Then in August, the government allowed chief district officers to take their own measures to contain the virus spread.
The Valley last year saw prohibitory orders for the first time on August 19 for a week.
Number of cases started to peak until October. On October 21, the country recorded its highest daily count of 5,743 with 28 deaths in 24 hours. Thereafter there was a constant decline in new cases, until it started to peak three weeks ago.
Of Kathmandu Valley’s 1,912 new infections in the past 24 hours, 1,567 cases were confirmed in Kathmandu, 223 in Lalitpur and 122 in Bhaktapur.
Nepal’s total coronavirus tally crossed the 300,000 mark on Sunday, hitting 303,561 on Monday. So far, 3,176 people have died of Covid-19-related complications. Nepal reported 28 deaths on Sunday and 12 on Monday.
The number of active Covid-19 cases across the country stands at 22,434.
(Anil Giri contributed reporting.)