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A meeting of the cabinet on Monday decided to extend the nationwide lockdown until 15 April. It is the second extension since the government enforced a nationwide lockdown on 24 March, invoking the Infectious Disease Control Act, in order to restrict the spread of Covid19. The decision comes two days after three people were tested positive for the virus and a day after Sudur Paschim Province sought more time to track migrants returning from various work destinations including India.
The government on Tuesday decided to give the same perks and privileges to private doctors willing to work in government hospitals and provide frontline service for the prevention and control of Covid19. Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday, government spokesperson and finance minister Yubaraj Khatiwada said that any doctor working for private health facilities is now welcome to join government hospitals.
Government hospitals across the country have been reporting a shortfall of medical staff. It has therefore been encouraging doctors from private hospitals to temporarily join public ones amid this shortfall. On Sunday, the government had decided to deploy 50,000 female community health volunteers to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
A total of 9,168 people are currently in various quarantine facilities across the country, according to the Ministry of Health and Population. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, MoHP spokesperson Bikash Devokta said that the people in question include migrants coming from India and other countries. Local bodies and security agencies across the country have set up quarantine and isolation facilities targeting returnee migrants or potentially exposed family members.
Devkota also informed that 1,697 samples have been tested for Covid19, of which only nine people have tested positive so far. He said that people can now get tested for the novel coronavirus in 10 different health facilities across the country.
The Nepal Police on Monday rounded up over 1,800 people for defying the lockdown. The government has tightened public movement ever since three more people were tested positive for Covid19 on Saturday. Exact figures are hard to come by, but over 40,000 people, more than half of whom were using vehicles, have been caught for defying the ban since Nepal went under lockdown on 24 March. The Nepal Police spokesperson Umeesh Raj Joshi said that wanderers were released after being reprimanded and given minor disciplining although some viral videos show the police using unjustifiable force.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party has called a meeting of the party’s central secretariat for Tuesday. The meeting is taking place at a time when NCP leaders have been critiquing the Oli government’s disastrous handling of Covid19. Leaders were mounting pressure on PM KP Sharma Oli to call a secretariat meeting since top cabinet ministers, including health minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhawal, were implicated in corruption over the procurement of Covid19 kits and other medical gears from China through agents. On 1 April, the government had scrapped its contract with Omni Group, an agent initially handpicked for the job, and decided to procure it through the Nepal Army. The decision to procure the medicine through Nepal Army has also landed into controversy with many alleging that the government was bolstering the army’s power in order to hide its own incompetence.
The government has increased patrols in national parks across the country following a marked rise in cases of wildlife poaching. At least three crocodiles and an elephant have been killed since Nepal went into lockdown two weeks ago, while over 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with wildlife related offenses. Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, spokesperson for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, said that his office has increased patrolling due to reported increase in the movement of poachers within conservation areas.
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