Health Ministry urges not to host public gatherings amid increasing threat of COVID-19

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has urged the public to abide by necessary health precautions to help prevent a second wave of COVID-19 spread.

As the southern neighbor India’s richest state, Maharashtra, reported 30,535 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, which could send the country’s overall cases to a multi-month high when national data is released later on Monday, Nepali authorities have alerted local governments as well as the public to remain alert.

Issuing a statement on Sunday, MoHP Spokesperson Dr Jageshwor Gautam appealed all not to hold any public assemblies, gatherings, meetings and seminars. He also urged wearing face masks and frequent use hand sanitizers.

Since cross-border movement between Nepal and India is ongoing without restrictions, there are fears that Nepal could see a fresh wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With 11.6 million cases, India is now the worst-affected country after the United States and Brazil.

Maharashtra, India’s most industrialized state and home to its financial capital Mumbai, has been accounting for more than 60% of the country’s total cases after a full-scale reopening of its economy unleashed a second wave of infections late last month.

India’s health ministry warned on Sunday that a huge gathering of devotees for the weeks-long Hindu festival of Mahakumbh could send coronavirus cases surging, as the country recorded the most new infections in nearly four months.

Similarly, MoHP’s notice on Sunday also comes ahead of the forthcoming Hindu festival, Holi, which is generally celebrated among masses.

Though Nepal Government on Friday gave emergency authorization to India’s COVID-19 vaccine COVAXIN, the country has yet to receive as many as one million doses of Covishield purchased from India, 800,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines pledged by China, and 1,908,000 doses through the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme.

Amid the vaccine shortfall, the government has invited private sector to import anti-COVID vaccines.

MoHP has also informed that the second dose of anti-coronavirus vaccines will be administered from April 20 to April 24 to those who received the first dose in the first phase between January 27 and February 22.

Nepal currently has 550,000 vaccines in stock for the second dose. The country has so far inoculated a total of 1,673,227 citizens.

Meanwhile, Sudurpaschim province has made antigen testing mandatory for those entering the country via various Nepal-India border points in the province.

The decision comes at a point when entry of Nepali migrant workers in various border points throughout the province has been increasing adead of the upcoming Nepali New Year and Bishu Festival.

A large number of people conduct cross border movement on a daily basis via major border points including Gaddachauki border point in Kanchanpur, Trinagar border point in Kailali, Khakraula border point in Tikapur and Julaghat border point in Baitadi.

Keeping in mind the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus in the province, the Ministry of Social Development has ordered the Health directorate to conduct mandatory testing of the people entering the country, informed the ministry.

Similarly, the concerned authorities have been asked to prepare isolation wards.

Those returning to the country from India have also been mandated to stay in 10-day self-quarantine.