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Nepal starts 15-day COVID lockdown as infections spike

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Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and other main cities in the Himalayan nation have entered a lockdown amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases, officials said.

The lockdown will remain in place for a week, according to Kali Prasad Parajuli, chief district officer of Kathmandu.

 “The prohibitory order can be extended by at least one week depending on the COVID-19 situation,” Parajuli told DPA news agency.

In Kathmandu and surrounding districts, police set up checkpoints and were stopping drivers and pedestrians. Several vehicles were impounded for defying the rules.

Nepal’s health ministry has recorded a total of 312,699 infections, with 30,209 active cases, while 3,211 people died from COVID-19 so far.

The virus has also been detected at the Mount Everest base camp where hundreds of climbers are waiting for the final ascent of the world’s tallest peak.

The government prohibited all businesses and services from operating except the essential ones while it also restricted unnecessary public movement in all three districts of the Kathmandu Valley, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

Those defying the restrictions on public movement or not wearing a face mask could face up to one month in prison, a fine of up to 500 rupees ($4.20), or both, according to officials.

However, international and domestic flights were operating on schedule, officials added.

The government closed the land borders to foreigners, but citizens of neighbouring India could enter with a negative coronavirus test and proof of a hotel booking for a 10-day quarantine.

The country launched its vaccination campaign in January and gave shots to 1.9 million people, all provided by India and China.

But health experts feared that continuation of the vaccination drive was uncertain after officials had failed to procure more doses from India or any other source.

The virus was also detected at the Everest base camp where hundreds of climbers were waiting for the final ascent of the world’s tallest peak.

According to Nepal’s Department of Tourism, a total of 408 climbers acquired permits to climb Mount Everest this spring season.