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Home / World News / As Covid-19 cases rise, Nepal and Bhutan seal borders with India

As Covid-19 cases rise, Nepal and Bhutan seal borders with India

Indian authorities are providing help to stranded nationals across the world. The country has also sent aid to Italy, which has recorded more Covid-19 deaths than China.

world Updated: Mar 23, 2020 12:34 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A man wearing a face mask walks past the closed shops in a deserted street amid fears of Covid-19 outbreak, in Kathmandu on March 23.
A man wearing a face mask walks past the closed shops in a deserted street amid fears of Covid-19 outbreak, in Kathmandu on March 23. (Reuters Photo)

Nepal and Bhutan sealed their land borders with India on Monday as part of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 even as Indian authorities continued to provide support to nationals stranded in various cities around the world.

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Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck said the country was resorting to the “drastic measure” of sealing its land borders because of the pandemic.

“As you have been made aware through various government bulletins, the virus is spreading, causing immense disruption worldwide, and drawing closer to us each day,” he said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday.

“At such a time, the health and safety of the people of Bhutan is of the greatest priority, and as such, we are putting in place every measure necessary to safeguard the people of Bhutan,” he said.

Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said that the borders were sealed from 6 am on Monday. The Bhutan government said only essential supplies such as food, medicines and fuel would be allowed into the country, and returning Bhutanese nationals would be quarantined.

The Bhutan king told nationals studying or working abroad “not to worry”.

Nepal too completely sealed its land borders with India at 10 am on Monday. The decision was made at a cabinet meeting held on Sunday.

India and Nepal had earlier decide to keep four border checkpoints operational, but Nepalese authorities had expressed concern about the “largely unrestricted” movement of nationals of both countries through not only the four checkpoints but also through other crossings along the 1,800-km border that is largely unmanned, The Kathmandu Post reported.

With India reporting a steady rise in Covid-19 cases, Nepalese nationals living and working in Indian cities had started to return, “stoking concerns [about whether] they were properly screened before entering Nepal”, the Post reported.

“With all flights to Nepal suspended, health experts had said that the only way the coronavirus could now enter Nepal, if it has not already, was via the open border with India,” the report said.

With the week-long suspension of all international flights to India, Indian missions began extending support to nationals stranded in various cities.

Officials of the Indian mission in Kuala Lumpur are continuing to help Indians stranded while in transit at the Kuala Lumpur airport. The mission’s Twitter handle said they were being provided food and medicines day and night with the support of the Malaysian foreign ministry and Malaysian Airlines.

Several members of a group of more than 50 Indian students who had sought shelter at the Indian high commission in London were moved to hotels and hostels, people familiar with developments said. Some of them were still in the mission, they added.

India also sent a consignment of 40,000 masks and other medical equipment to Italy, the country that has recorded more Covid-19 deaths than China. Italy had earlier sought assistance from India, including medical supplies.

“Reinforcements are coming four our doctors, nurses, socio-health workers. For all women and men struggling in hospitals to save lives,” Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio said in a Facebook post, adding 40,000 masks had been received from India.

The Italian foreign ministry’s Twitter handle posted photos of the supplies sent by India and quoted di Maio as saying: “We are grateful to you for your friendship and generosity in this moment of need.”