In yet another drastic step to contain possible spread of the novel coronavirus, the government today decided to impose a partial lockdown by completely halting long-distance transportation services, international flights and non-essential services offered by both private and public sectors.
In his address to the nation this evening, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli announced a complete halt on long-haul transportation services with effect from March 23 till further notice. International flights operations at Tribhuvan International Airport will remain shut from March 22 to March 31.
The government has also decided to halt services offered by both private and public sectors, other than essential services listed on the Nepal gazette, across the country from March 23 to April 3.
The government has fixed 19 areas of essential goods and services. The services include postal, telegram or telephone services, transportation services (road, water and air), airport runway, aeroplane repair and maintenance services, water supply and distribution, tourism sector (motels, hotels, restaurants, resorts), supply of petroleum products, including liquefied petroleum gas, health services in hospitals and health centres, ambulances, production and sale/distribution of medicines, waste management (collection, transportation, disposal and recycling), banking, insurance, electricity supply, insurance and transportation and storage and distribution of consumer goods, including rice, lentils, edible oil and salt.
Apart from these, defence affairs related to the function of arms, ammunition or production of military goods and services concerning internal security, communications as well as services pertaining to internal security have been included in essential services.
PM Oli said the government would also coordinate with neighbouring countries to set up health desks at major border points to ensure no traveller is affected.
He added that the government would promote work-from-home culture as far as possible in the private sector. However, all government and private sector employees working in essential services sector will attend their offices as usual.
The prime minister made it clear that stern action would be taken against those involved in black-marketing, hoarding and creating artificial shortages in the market.
As far as the national economy is concerned, Oli said the government was minutely studying the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy. He said the government would soon announce programmes to ensure the economy did not face any squeeze.
Oli urged Nepalis living abroad to contact respective Nepali missions in case of any difficulty. “I am aware you’ve been facing difficulties in returning home. Don’t panic and contact our missions for any assistance needed. They will do their bit to resolve your problems,” said Oli.
Oli pledged to contribute Rs 100 million to the SAARC emergency fund set for coronavirus during a video conferencing of SAARC leaders on Monday. Oli also expressed commitment to cooperate with neighbours, regional and international friendly countries in fighting against the pandemic.
The prime minister reiterated the government’s appeal to the public to be cautious and not to panic.
Stating that the entire world was going through tough time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prime minister said it was no time to be complacent and think that the pandemic would not affect Nepal.
Oli urged people to act responsibly by paying attention to cleanliness, staying away from crowd, staying at home as much as possible, not hoarding goods, ignoring rumours and following advice of experts and doctors.
“Fight against a pandemic is not easy. We need to make changes to our lifestyle and behaviour for a certain time. We do not have any other option,” said Oli. “The government will leave no stone unturned to prevent and control the contagion and in the treatment of infected.” Oli said, “I believe all my fellow citizens will exhibit strong willpower and high morale as you exhibited during the 2015 earthquakes.”