Under fire for this perceived lack of urgency, Defence Minister Pokhrel got a meeting of the High-Level Committee on 11 April to put out a tentative strategy to transport people wishing to leave Kathmandu for their districts under the assumption that no cases had been detected in the capital.
But the plan was never taken to the Cabinet, and there was disagreement within the committee between Defence Minister Pokhrel and Home Minister Thapa whether the plan was logistically feasible.
Despite this, Pokhrel’s secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office issued a notice via Facebook that Friday and Saturday had been designated for those wishing to leave Kathmandu, and that transport would be provided.
However, the Chief Minister of Province 5 Shankar Pokhrel took to social media to express his reservations, and called the Prime Minister to say that the centre could not violate its own lockdown. Pokhrel then issued a perplexing notice on Facebook, denying that any such order had ever been issued. Passengers who had already been waiting for buses in Kathmandu Bus Park, were ordered back by police.
This was not the only contentious decision made by the high command at the High-Level Committee however. Orders to not allow Nepali students studying abroad to return, stopping Nepali workers at the Indian border, and the alleged corruption in the purchase of essential health equipment from private firms had already drawn considerable flak from the public in social media.
Then on Sunday, the Prime Minister accused the media of being partisan and accused reporters of exaggerating the plight of those walking on the highways. The government’s inability to help those most affected by the lockdown, and the lack of accountability displayed during the crisis have fed public perception that the government is inhumane, and politically weakened Prime Minister Oli further and put him even more on the defensive.
Long road home, Bikram Rai and Suraj Kumar Bhujel
The India connection in Nepal’s COVID-19 status, Nepali Times