Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Nepal allows some public transport services to resume as of July 16 amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

  • Alert Begins: 16 Jul 2020 10:34 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 23 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, quarantine measures; possible clashes

Summary
The Nepali government has relaxed some public transport restrictions as of July 16, amid other ongoing measures, tocurb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Authorities are allowing intradistrict travel nationwide; interdistrict travel, however, will remain limited to the Kathmandu Valley region comprising Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur districts.Public transport services are required to enforce social distancing measures, such as mandatory facemasks, and limit passenger capacity to 50 percent. Public transport availability remains limited due to some transporter groups boycotting service resumption until the government meets their demands for monetary and regulatory concessions.

The government continues to maintain other restrictions through at least July 22. Officials will continue to impose previously enacted commercial, gathering, and transport restrictions. Gatherings of more than 15 people are banned. Businesses such as department stores and financial institutions are allowed to remain open, albeit while practicing social distancing measures. Authorities are keeping education facilities, religious places, sports facilities, and other recreational areas closed. Private transport is allowed but with limited passengers. Interprovincial and interdistrict travel is banned through July 22. Authorities are making exceptions for people traveling with prior permission and for essential purposes; the strictest enforcement of travel restrictions will likely be in Kathmandu. Cargo transport is unaffected. Other previously imposed measures likely remain in effect, including limits on nonessential movement, the wearing of a protective facemask in public, and a daily curfew 2200-0500.

Nepalese authorities had imposed strict movement controls in multiple districts, including Sarlani, Rautahat, Kapilvastu, and Dailekh, due to increased COVID-19 activity. Authorities have not announced an end to these restrictions as of July 16. Administrative areas with COVID-19 clusters are typically sealed. No vehicle movement is allowed within, into, or out of such areas, except for essential and emergency purposes; business operation is limited to essential services. Residents must remain in their homes at all times, though they may be outside between the hours of 0700-0900 to purchase essential goods. Further localized restrictions, as well as protests by businesses demanding relaxation of measures, are possible in the coming days. Although banks and businesses selling essential goods such as fuel, food, and medicines will remain open, panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas. While transport availability is significantly affected, industries can apply for special permits to maintain supply delivery.

Provincial administrations and security personnel are ensuring compliance with the control measures. Sporadic clashes are possible if any group attempts to defy movement and business restrictions. Police will likely act quickly to control such incidents.

Additional Travel Restrictions
Authorities have extended the suspension of international and domestic flights, apart from cargo, emergency, and repatriation flights, through July 22. Individuals or organizations seeking an exemption from the flight ban must obtain permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal. Nepalese authorities will likely continue to ban most charter flights through July 22; however, authorities will likely continue to exempt diplomatic charter flights from the ban.

Nepal has also suspended on-arrival and electronic visa issuance for all foreign nationals and nonresident Nepalese until further notice. Earlier, authorities mandated travelers to contact their local Nepali diplomatic mission for visa approval and submit the results of a swab test demonstrating that the individual is COVID-19-free within seven days before the intended travel date. Officials continue advising Nepali citizens against nonessential international travel. Health checks are mandatory at all entry points. Officials are advising incoming travelers, regardless of nationality, to self-isolate for two weeks or undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a medical facility based on medical screening outcomes. Intensified land border patrols to prevent unauthorized entry have continued, especially along the India-Nepal border; sporadic arrests and clashes are possible.

Despite Nepal allowing cargo transit at land borders, transport disruptions are possible. Nepali and Chinese authorities have agreed to partially reopen the Rasuwagadi border checkpoint, with only Chinese goods being allowed to cross the border; the checkpoint is likely to resume operations before the end of June. Nepal reopened the Tatopani crossing with China, with only Chinese goods allowed through the border. Further disruptions are possible if Nepalese authorities reintroduce a rule allowing entry only for transporters holding Nepalese citizenship. Officials had withdrawn the rule after shipping disruptions at the Sanauli border check-post with India June 5-7.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Nepali government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm business appointments, deliveries, and travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items; plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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