Kathmandu, February 9
The National Human Rights Commission today directed the government to immediately bring back Nepalis from Hubei, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak, as students stuck in the Chinese province have started making frantic calls for evacuation.
The instruction was issued during today’s emergency meeting of the commission.
The commission’s attention has been drawn by the coronavirus outbreak in China and a memorandum submitted by guardians of students in Hubei demanding that the government save the lives of their children, the commission said.
“The situation is not favourable for Nepalis in Hubei to come out of their residences; there is lack of grocery items and also a risk of contracting the disease because of their extended stay,” says the press statement signed by the commission’s Secretary and Spokesperson Bed Bhattarai.
The commission has also directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health and Population to provide the health status of Nepalis in China and details of initiatives taken so far to evacuate them.
The government formally initiated the process of evacuating Nepalis from Hubei on February 1 with the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing requesting those interested in returning home to submit applications. By February 2, 180 Nepalis — 177 students and three minors — had submitted applications. But the government still has not been able to confirm the evacuation date.
The government also has not been able to finalise the location to house China evacuees as they will have to be quarantined for two weeks once they return home before they are released.
As of now, two buildings of Nepal Electricity Authority Training Centre in Bhaktapur have been vacated to quarantine Nepalis returning from China. The environment and social study department and a hostel at the training centre have been vacated to house Nepalis. These facilities can accommodate up to 150 people.
The compound is being fenced with corrugated zinc sheets. A security team has also been deployed in the area.
“We have been directed to complete all the work for housing China returnees by tomorrow. We are now making arrangements to put new beds and clearing space to enable the evacuees to play games such as volleyball and chess,” said the training centre’s Deputy Director Keshav Raj Oli, adding, “However, we are yet to put the carpets and disinfect the rooms and the premises where China evacuees will be kept.”
A team from Nepali Army today inspected the building and the area.
The Ministry of Health and Population has decided to deploy 12 health workers, including medical officers, staff nurses and paramedics, at the quarantine centre. “An orientation for the medial team will be held tomorrow,” said Sagar Dahal, chief of the Health Emergency Operation Centre. The ministry, however, does not have any plan to provide orientation to crew members who will be bringing back Nepalis.
According to the health ministry, five ambulances will be used to ferry Nepalis from the airport and one ambulance will be kept at the quarantine site round the clock.
The death toll from coronavirus has overtaken that of SARS epidemic in 2003 reaching at least 813. The virus has infected at least 37,552 people, mostly in China.
A version of this article appears in print on February 10, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.