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109 Covid19 cases

The total number of Covid19 cases in Nepal jumped to 109 on Saturday with an additional seven confirmations. According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), testing showed traces of the virus in swab samples from three women in Udayapur, three men in Kapilvastu and one man in Parsa. Health workers are collecting samples from others in all three areas. 

After a few days of lull due to shortages of testing kits, hospitals across the country have increased the number of tests, especially in the worst affected areas like Birgunj, Udayapur, Nepalgunj and Rautahat. Multiple teams of health workers have been deployed from Kathmandu in these areas to assist local authorities. As of Saturday, 31 of the infected have recovered.

In a related development, the National Public Health Laboratory has said that all swab samples collected from the parliament, including those belonging to 54 MPs, have tested negative for the virus. 

Chinese nationals under investigation 

The Metropolitan Police Office of Kathmandu has begun an investigation on the Chinese nationals charged with indecent behaviour. SSP Shyamlal Gyawali told Rastriya Samachar Samittee that the Chinese citizens would be kept in custody until the investigation is completed. Several Chinese tourists were arrested on Friday for protesting in a restricted zone and assaulting police officers on duty. A deputy superintendent of the police and five others were injured in clashes outside Singha Durbar when the police tried to remove the protesting tourists whose main demand was to be returned home. 

On Saturday, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu had urged Chinese nationals stranded in Nepal to respect Nepal’s laws, while urging Nepali authorities to uphold the rights of the tourists.  

First batch of China aid 

China’s first set of medical aid to Nepal arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday. 

“The first batch of China aid medical materials to Nepal, including testing kits, N95 masks, surgical masks, disposable coveralls and medical goggles, has arrived in Nepal today! We’ll keep working hard on #ChinaNepalSolidarity!” Hou Yanqi, China’s ambassador to Nepal, tweeted. 

It is the first tranche of assistance provided by the Chinese government, although various regional governments and Chinese charities such as the Jack Ma Foundation have provided medical materials, including Covid19 test kits, in the past. Nepal has relied heavily on aid received from various governments and INGOs as the Covid19 medical procurement process remains entangled in red tapes.   

In other news, the health ministry has sent fresh batch test kits received from Swiss government to various hospitals across the country.  

Time card system for essential workers 

Kathmandu’s Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) has announced its decision to start a time card system to regulate vehicular movement in the city from Sunday. Bhim Prasad Dhakal, spokesperson of MTPD, said that his office was lifting some restrictions on essential workers who will be joining the office once again. 

The government has decided to resume 44 types of essential businesses like banking and financial institutions, vegetable market and so on. Dhakal said that office goers would be allowed to use vehicles between 9 to 10 am and 5 to 6 pm, while vehicular movement would be restricted during the day. 

The use of private vehicles has grown in recent days, although the police continue to book hundreds of offenders on a daily basis. More than 100,000 people have been arrested for defying the lockdown since Nepal mandated that people stay indoors to curb the spread of the virus. 

Deported workers paid 

Companies of dozens of workers who were deported from Qatar in March have paid their salaries, Nepal’s mission in Qatar has said. Qatar had deported more than 450 Nepalis workers in March. Several workers, who were allegedly deported for defying public restriction on movement, had returned to the country without salaries. Several rights groups, including Amnesty International, had criticised Qatar for deporting the workers. There are still more than 200 workers waiting for deportation after the resumption of international flights, the Record has learned. 

IMF’s disbursement to Nepal 

The International Monetary Fund has approved a disbursement of about USD 214 million to help Nepal meet an urgent balance of payments and fiscal needs stemming from the Covid19 pandemic. The pandemic is having a severe impact on Nepal’s economy. During recent months, remittances have fallen considerably, tourist arrivals collapsed, and domestic activity has taken a hit amid social distancing measures.

The authorities’ immediate priority has been to deal with the human and economic impact of the pandemic. The authorities are increasing health spending, including by providing additional incentive pay and insurance coverage to all medical front-line personnel, importing additional medical supplies, and setting up quarantine centres and temporary hospitals. They are also strengthening social assistance by providing those most vulnerable with daily food rations, subsidising utility bills for low-usage customers, and taking steps to partially compensate those who suffer job loss. In addition, measures are being implemented to ensure adequate liquidity in the financial system and support continued access to credit.

Tao Zhang, deputy managing director and chair at IMF, said in a statement, “The global and domestic measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic are severely affecting the Nepali economy, through their impact on remittances, tourism, and domestic activity. Fund support under the Rapid Credit Facility, following the recent approval of debt service relief under the Fund’s CCRT, will help the authorities address immediate financing needs and catalyse additional support from other development partners.”

NC leader Shrestha calls for repatriation

Nepali Congress leader Gopal Man Shrestha has asked the government to bring Nepali migrants stranded in various work destinations across the world. In a statement issued on Saturday, Shrestha said that the government should not deny the migrants their constitutional right to return to their country. He said that the government should repatriate all those languishing in India, the Gulf, Europe, America and beyond. Nepalis work in more than 110 countries, according to the Department of Foreign Employment. 

Nepali migrants stuck in India and other countries across the world have been pleading with the government to repatriate them. The Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission have also directed the government to evacuate those willing to return home. 

Covid19 infections have been spreading rapidly among migrant workers in the Gulf, home to around 1.5 million Nepalis.