Passenger Vehicles Ply Prithvi Highway Unhindered At Night

Kathmandu Valley has been shut down to break the chain of transmission of the novel coronavirus. People are forbidden from leaving their homes except for urgent works, businesses are closed and life is on hold. Yet, every night, Prithvi Highway is jammed with vehicles exiting the capital.
The road, which is considered the main route into and out of the valley, is desolate during the day but once night falls, it is crowded with vehicles – big and small, showing that the prohibitory order issued by the Chief District Officers of the three districts of the valley has not been fully implemented.
The records of vehicles exiting Kathmandu via the highway are kept by police at Gajuri, Dhading. According to police officers stationed to document the travelling vehicles, more than 300 passenger buses cross through Gajuri on a daily basis. “Despite the authorities’ ban on mobility in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, long- and short-distance vehicles ply the highway every night,” they informed, adding, “During the day, the road is as empty as it can be. But as soon as it gets dark, innumerable vehicles start arriving.”
“The vehicles taking people out of Kathmandu use social media, especially Facebook, to contact and collect passengers from various locations,” Bikash Sharma, driver of a bus going from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, shared.
The passengers travelling on Sharma’s bus acknowledged that they risked spreading the virus to their native villages but said that they were forced to return home because of the economic insecurity in Kathmandu. The prohibitions have hindered livelihoods and decimated earnings, they said.
“The buses are charging double the normal fare. But it’s okay as long as we are taken to our destinations,” passenger Sabin Shrestha said.
The Rising Nepal talked to a few bus drivers who said that the police did not stop them on their route despite them not having any pass or being an essential vehicle. Yuvaraj Khadka, chief of the Area Police Office of Gajuri, admitted that the police did not stop the vehicles because it would cause problems.
“Sending the passenger-filled vehicles back to where they came from would cause more problems than it would solve. So we let them proceed but only after checking whether they have adopted all the necessary safety precautions or not,” Khadka stated.