Nepal imposes tough restrictions as virus cases set record

Jan 21, 2022, 3:31 AM | Updated: 3:53 am

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s capital shut schools, ordered citizens to carry vaccination cards in public, banned religious festivals and instructed hotel guests to be tested every three days as it battles its biggest COVID-19 outbreak.

The chief government administrator of Kathmandu issued a notice on Friday saying all people must carry their vaccination cards when they are in public areas or shop in stores.

Nepal, however, has only fully vaccinated 41% of its population. The notice did not say how unvaccinated people will be able to pay utility bills or shop for groceries.

The government says it has enough vaccines in stock, but a new wave of COVID-19 cases propelled by the omicron variant has created long lines at vaccination centers, with many people unable to receive shots.

All public gatherings and meetings will be banned and cinemas and theaters will be closed. Gymnasiums, pools and other sporting venues will also be shut. No public religious festivals or events will be allowed, the notice said. It did not say how long the restrictions would last.

Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations.

Wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in public will be mandatory. Only 20 customers at a time will be allowed in shopping malls and department stores, and all must carry vaccination cards. Employees will be given regular antigen tests to be allowed to work.

Restaurants and hotels can remain open, but employees must wear face masks and other protection. Hotel guests must take antigen tests every three days.

The government is also limiting road traffic, with bans on alternating days for vehicles with odd or even license plates.

The notice said violators will be punished, but did not elaborates. An existing law relating to pandemics says violators can be jailed for a month.

The Health Ministry reported a record 12,338 new cases on Thursday and 11,352 on Wednesday, compared to a few hundred daily cases last month.

Nepal had full lockdowns in 2020 and again from late April to Sept. 1, 2021.

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Nepal imposes tough restrictions as virus cases set record