Nepal still preparing to evacuate citizens from Wuhan

A week after Nepalis in China's Hubei province asked the Nepal government to evacuate them, officials in Kathmandu have little idea how the evacuation will progress.

Feb 09, 2020
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Nepal still preparing to evacuate citizens from Wuhan

A week after Nepalis in China's Hubei province asked the Nepal government to evacuate them, officials in Kathmandu have little idea how the evacuation will progress.

Last Sunday, the Nepali Embassy in Beijing said that it had received requests for evacuation from 180 Nepalis in Hubei, mostly from Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus. The government subsequently pledged to bring the Nepalis back home but in the absence of concrete action, Nepalis in Hubei are getting desperate, especially after seeing numerous other countries, including India, evacuate their citizens, The Kathmandu Post reported.

"We don't know when exactly the government is planning to rescue Nepalis from Wuhan," Sagar Dahal, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population, told the Post. "We have been preparing and other concerned agencies are also doing their best."

Health experts say that a medical evacuation, unlike political decisions, is not easy to pull off as Nepal is “not prepared at all”.

An evacuation plan requires a number of critical moving parts to work in unison. A proper medically equipped aircraft needs to be arranged, with protective gear for pilots and crew. All those requiring rescue will need to be assembled in one place, while ensuring that they do not infect each other. Once in Kathmandu, they will need to be disinfected upon exiting the craft and then transported to a secure quarantine facility in ambulances equipped with isolation chambers.

“Have we worked on all these components?” said Dr Bhim Acharya, a former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division. "We are not prepared for the kind of situation we are trying to deal with.”

Acharya said it was irresponsible for the government to not have done anything substantial despite announcing that it would evacuate Nepalis a week ago.

Nepal has so far had only one confirmed case of the coronavirus.