Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Wednesday claimed that 85 per cent of the people tested positive for coronavirus in the country are those who returned from India.
His claim comes in midst of a raging boundary row between the two countries with India sternly asking Nepal not to resort to any “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims after the Kathmandu released a new political map laying claim over Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
Nepal has recorded 279 new cases of the coronavirus infection on Wednesday, taking the country’s COVID-19 tally to 4,364. At least 15 people have died due to the disease, according to the health ministry. Province No. 2 situated in southern Nepal bordering India has highest number of cases.
The Oli government is facing criticism from various quarters over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to critics, despite the over two-month-long lockdown, the coronavirus infections and deaths are increasing in the country. Thousands of people are kept in quarantine facilities near Indo-Nepal border areas. However, those quarantine centres are becoming COVID-19 hotspots due to lack of basic sanitation facilities.
“Eighty-five per cent of the people who tested positive for coronavirus in Nepal are those who returned from India,” Mr. Oli told Parliament while responding to questions by lawmakers.
Mr. Oli said that with the start of the movement of people from India, the number of coronavirus cases doubled in just one month in Nepal.
In April-May, only 7,400 Nepalese had come from India. However, in May-June, 222,000 people returned from India, he said, adding that now every day 7- 8,000 people are coming back from India.
“As a large number of people returned from India, which was beyond our expectation, we could not manage them well. Now the number of infected people has crossed 4,000,” the prime minister said.
He said many people returned from India on jam packed trains and buses and several of them might have contracted the virus during their travel.
Mr. Oli said 14,454 Nepalese abroad have contracted the virus and 127 died in 13 countries due to the infection.
The ties between India and Nepal came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.
Nepal reacted sharply to the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through Nepalese territory. India rejected the claim asserting that the road lies completely within its territory.
Mr. Oli said the death toll from the coronavirus is very low in the country. He attributed it to Nepalese people’s strong immunity system due to their food habits and the good treatment facility provided by his government. He said the government has taken “effective” measures to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
“We have increased our facility to 5,000 coronavirus tests per day. 1,06,000 tests have been conducted so far. Besides, the government has allocated 45 dedicated hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. At the local level, 3,000 health workers have been deployed to collect swab and conduct coronavirus tests. As many as 3,200 health workers have been assigned for contract tracing across the country,” he said.
The government has created 3,767 quarantine facilities with the capacity to accommodate 2,35,500 people. Over 11,000 health workers have been deployed in these facilities. A total of 53,000 women health volunteers have been deployed for generating awareness about coronavirus across the country, the prime minister noted.