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267 Covid19 cases 

The total number Covid19 cases in Nepal reached 267 on Friday after the confirmation of 18 more cases. The infected include individuals from Banke, Makwanpur, Parsa, Udayapur, Dang and Kathmandu, and are aged between 10-47 years, according to the Ministry of Health and Population. 

As of Friday, 23,914 samples have been tested using the PCR method. Similarly, 63,085 people have been tested using the RDT method. In the last 24 hours, 1,250 tests have been conducted using the PCR method and 758 through the RDT method.

Covid19 budget in the offing 

President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Friday presented the government’s annual policies and programmes for the fiscal year 2077-78, throwing a major spotlight on projects aimed at turning Nepal into a Covid19-free country. Addressing both houses of the federal parliament, President Bhandari described Covid19 as the main priority and laid out several strategies the Oli government will be using to combat the pandemic. 

Among other things, Bhandari announced plans to build a special Covid19 facility, increase health infrastructure and equipment, and invest in health workers, while announcing a list of other programmes to tackle the economic impact of the pandemic. The annual policies and programmes, which are regarded as a mirror of the fiscal budget, have drawn mixed reactions. While some have lauded Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada for bringing sound policies and programmes, others have criticised him for bringing an ordinary budget in the time of crisis. 

Lockdown extension likely 

The high level government taskforce on Covid19 held a discussion with public health experts on Friday as the government intensifies consultations to formulate a strategy to combat the pandemic. The ongoing lockdown is coming to an end on May 16 and opinions remain divided as to whether or not the lockdown should be extended in its current form. Earlier, the government was planning to change the lockdown’s modality, but more are voicing the need to give continuity to the current lockdown given the sharp rise in cases.  

Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Narayan Bidari said that the government would adopt “different models for different places” after thorough risk assessments. If that happens, the government may introduce a diverse set of social distancing rules after dividing the country into multiple zones. The taskforce is scheduled to hold a meeting to reach a decision on Saturday. 

Outrage over shoot on sight order 

On Thursday, a meeting of the District Crisis Management Centre, Parsa, decided to allow the police to shoot runaway Covid19 patients on sight. The meeting chaired by Chief District Officer Bishnu Kumar Karki had taken the decision after two Covid19 patients receiving treatment at Narayani Hospital left its premises. The patients had reportedly gone out to buy liquor but had returned soon afterwards. 

The decision has now landed in controversy with many, including human rights activists and civil society members, questioning the validity of such a decision. 

“Under which law have they ordered the shooting of a #Covid19 person?” Commissioner Mohna Ansari of the National Human Rights Commission tweeted, calling on the government to respect human rights and dignity. Several civil society members and social media users have criticised the decision. 

Bring stranded migrants back: NC

The Nepali Congress (NC) has demanded the government to allow safe passage to Nepali migrants stuck at border points with India in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis as thousands of people continue to return home, taking advantage of the resumption of railways in India. In a statement issued on Friday, NC said that thousands of people have arrived at various border points in the last 24 hours. 

According to the statement, “NC urges the government to make arrangements for the safe entry of all Nepalis who have arrived at the checkpoint in a systematic manner and to keep them in proper quarantine and bring them home safely after the test.”

Although most people remain stranded at the borders, authorities at some border points have allowed entry to some migrants. On Thursday night, cross-border authorities had allowed entry to some stranded migrants in Nepal and India to enter their country through the Nepalgunj-Rupaidiha border point. 

A total of 687 Nepalis under quarantine in India were brought into Nepal, while 1,483 Indians were sent to India. The Nepalgunj Metropolitan City plans to send the recent returnees home after necessary screenings. 

600 Nepalis to return to Japan  

The government has decided to allow some Nepali migrants and non-residents to return to Japan and Hong Kong. Following a meeting of the high level Covid19 task force on Friday, Narayan Bidari, secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, said that around 600 new entrants or migrants who were on leave would be allowed to go to Japan. Some Nepalis with identification documents from Hong Kong will also benefit from the decision, Bidari added.  

Three Nepal Airlines flights have been scheduled to fly to Japan in the coming week.