Govt to offer relief package to daily wagers

Sharada Khatri 

KATHMANDU, March 28: After a fourth COVID-19 positive patient was diagnosed in Nepal on Friday the government is planning to extend the nationwide lockdown for another week, according to top government sources.

A meeting of the high-level coordination committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel on Friday also discussed extending the lockdown stating that it would be an effective measure to break the chain of the virus spread in the country.

With a view to limiting the mobility of the recent foreign returnee Nepalis who could be possible carriers of the coronavirus, the lockdown may go until April 7, said the sources.

“We have no better alternative for the time being than extending the lockdown period. The government may take a decision to this effect in a few days,” said a senior government official requesting not to be named.

The high-level coordination committee also agreed to suggest to the government to extend the lockdown for another week, said a member of the committee.

Hours after the confirmation of the second Covid-19 case in the country, the government had decided to enforce a nationwide lockdown from Tuesday for a week. Stakeholders have praised the decision stating it would prevent the rapid spread of the virus.

After Nepal, southern neighbor India has enforced a three-week long lockdown from Wednesday.

The government has decided to operate all emergency and essential services including food supply, water supply and garbage management among others.

“The committee has decided not to obstruct the imports, transport, sales and purchase of daily essential goods,” said government spokesperson Yubaraj Khatiwada on Friday after the meeting of the high-level committee.

After complaints from the public about difficulties on purchase of daily essentials, the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all food suppliers to open their shops but maintain distance with and between customers.

The government had enforced a partial lockdown from Sunday suspending all international flights and closed its borders with India and China. However, the government has decided to open two key border entry points with China from Thursday for imports of medical supplies.

Meanwhile, the government has planned to offer financial relief packages to the daily wagers through the local governments. Sources at the Ministry of Finance said that they have proposed providing the daily wage earners half of the monthly minimum wage as relief.

The high-level committee meeting on Friday also decided to rescue tourists from various trekking trails and facilitate their repatriation.

Similarly, the committee has decided to make transport arrangements for laborers stranded in various industrial areas, hotels and markets due to the lockdown to reach their homes. The meeting has also decided to ease imports of goods at customs points.

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