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Seven new cases 

The total number of Covid19 cases in Nepal reached 82 on Tuesday with the confirmation of seven additional cases in Nepalgunj. The infected include three males aged 22, 30 and 40 and four females aged 9, 32, 34 and 55, according to Samir Kumar Adhikari, the assistant spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population. They were relatives of the people diagnosed earlier this week. With this, the total number of cases has reached 23 in Nepalgunj. 

Concerned about possible spread, local authorities tightened restrictions on public movement on Tuesday and carried out testing on the family members and friends of those infected. Tension ensued in at least one neighbourhood of the city after the police used force to disperse crowds. 

Nepalgunj is the second worst affected area in the country after Udayapur where authorities are still struggling to prevent the spread of the virus. 

As of Tuesday, 31 people have been diagnosed for Covid19 in Province 1, 13 people in Province 2, 7 people in Bagmati, 2 persons in Gandaki, 24 people in Province 5 and 5 people in Sudur Paschim, while Karnali has not reported a single case, according the the ministry.  Additionally, two people who were earlier infected and had been discharged upon recovery have been reinfected by the virus.

Covid19 panel recommends lockdown extension

A meeting of the high level Covid19 task force has agreed on the need to extend the lockdown due to growing cases of Covid19. Following a meeting of senior officials chaired by deputy prime minister and defence minister Ishwar Pokhrel on Tuesday, Narayan Bidari, secretary of the PM’s Office, suggested that the lockdown would be extended due to the need for more testing. 

“It was agreed that measures that are being taken now are correct and would be continued,” Bidari told the media after the meeting. 

A concrete decision on the length of the lockdown would be taken by the cabinet on Wednesday. 

Health ministry asks people to stop drinking

A day after the Nepal Beverages and Cigarette Industries Association asked the government to relax restrictions on supply and sale of cigarettes and liquor, MoHP appealed to the general public to avoid drinking considering its adverse impact on health.

“Drinking affects our vital organs, our health and may even result in death,” MoHP spokesperson Bikash Devkota said during a daily press briefing on Tuesday. The ministry appeal comes at a time when an increasing number of people are dying due to the consumption of poisonous alcohol in central Nepal. Suggesting that some people may have been drinking alcohol as a preventive measure for coronavirus, Devkota said that such intake could also ruin their health. 

On Monday, the Nepal Beverage & Cigarette Industries Association had requested for the relaxation of sales, claiming that the lockdown was putting around 2 million jobholders at risk of losing their jobs. 

In India, the government has decided to slap an additional 70 percent tax on liquor after people started swarming to liquor shops. 

Local bodies in Kathmandu for strict lockdown 

Representatives of 12 municipalities in Kathmandu have urged the government to tighten restrictions on the flow of people coming in and going out of the Valley. During a meeting with DPM and defense minister Ishwor Pokhrel on Tuesday, local representatives stressed on the need for extreme measures to prevent the possible spread of Covid19 in the capital, saying that the unchecked entry of people was making Kathmandu susceptible to the spread of the virus. Kathmandu Metropolitan City mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya said that the local bodies would provide food aid to the jobless and stranded workers in need. The federal government has been consulting various stakeholders over possible change in the modality of restrictions on public movement.  

Migrants plead for help 

Migrants stranded in various places in India and the work destinations in the Gulf have urged the government to evacuate them. In the United Arab Emirates, a group of migrants who have been rendered jobless due to the Covid19 pandemic have begun to sit in protest outside the Nepal embassy demanding that they be repatriated home. Many of them have been facing problems in managing food and shelter. Migrants stuck in Gujarat, India have also urged the government to repatriate them. Exact figures are unavailable, but foriegn minister Pradeep Gyawali said on Monday that around 30,000 workers in various work destinations are waiting to be repatriated. 

However, the government, despite mounting pressure from civil society, appears reluctant to repatriate them out of fear that they might bring coronavirus and make the situation even worse. The Indian government has already started the process to repatriate its workers. 

Acute shortages of testing kits  

Bir Hospital has been forced to stop Covid19 testing due to the shortage of testing kits, becoming the latest health centre to do so as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic with limited human resources and testing kits. On Tuesday, Karnali Health Science Academy also stopped testing due to a shortage of testing kits. Several other health centres across the country, including the laboratories in Chitwan,  Bhairahawa and Biratnagar, have either entirely stopped or limited the number of tests due to the unavailability of testing kits. Despite acute shortages of testing kits, it’s still unclear how long it will take to procure enough supplies due to red tape and corruption allegations. 

Last month, the government, after scrapping an older tender with a private firm due to allegations of misappropriation, had handpicked the Nepal Army to procure the necessary medical supplies.  

So far, the government has been relying on the first installment delivered by Omni Group and aid received from various embassies and private companies. 

School banned from taking fees   

Schools and educational institutions have been directed not to take monthly fees from students under any pretext. In a statement issued on Monday, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has said that it has directed educational institutions to refrain from charging fees during the lockdown period. Guardians have been urged to report to local bodies in case they find that schools are violating the directive. The schools could, however, charge for residential service. 

The ministry has also dismissed media reports that it was considering resuming school activities, adding that an appropriate decision would be taken after analysing the situation.