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Bhutan, Nepal seal borders with India over coronavirus fears

BusinessToday.In     March 23, 2020

India's neighbouring countries - Bhutan and Nepal  - have sealed their borders as part of preventive measures to control the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19). Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of Bhutan, said the borders were sealed from 6 am on March 23, 2020.

The Bhutan government said only essential supplies - food, medicines and fuel - would be allowed to enter the country, and returning Bhutanese citizens would be held under quarantine.

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck said that the nation was resorting to "drastic measure" of sealing its borders because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jigme Khesar, while addressing the nation, said, "As you have been made aware through various government bulletins, the virus is spreading, causing immense disruption worldwide, and drawing closer to us each day."

The King added, "At such a time, the health and safety of the people of Bhutan is of the greatest priority, and as such, we are putting in place every measure necessary to safeguard the people of Bhutan." The Bhutan king assured nationals working abroad or studying "not to worry".

Nepal, on the other hand, sealed its borders completely with India at around 10 am on today after the cabinet's decision on Sunday.

Earlier, India and Nepal had decided to keep four checkpoints at the border to be operational, but the Nepalese authorities expressed concern about the "largely unrestricted" movement of both countries' citizens through other crossings along the 1,800-km unmanned border, reports the Kathmandu Post.

With the rise in Covid-19 cases in India, Nepalese citizens in Indian cities had started to return, "stoking concerns (if) they were properly screened before entering Nepal", reported the daily newspaper.

"With all flights to Nepal suspended, health experts had said that the only way the coronavirus could now enter Nepal, if it has not already, was via the open border with India," said the report.

(With inputs from agencies)

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