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Nepali migrant workers, students put off plans to return home as virus cases spike



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By Renuka Dhakal
Kathmandu, Aug. 16: With the growing risk of coronavirus and the apparent weakness in adherence to preventive measures by government as well citizens, Nepali students studying abroad and migrant workers working in good companies feel safer in those respective countries now than in Nepal.
The COVID–19 pandemic has been rising sharply in the recent days in Nepal. The infection ratio is high and the death toll from the coronavirus is gradually increasing.
Many places have been sealed off, even the frontline workers like doctors and nurses have been infected with the coronavirus.
After the government lifted the four-month-long lockdown in Nepal with the order of following safety protocols, citizens failed to pay heed to the preventive measures like wearing mask, and maintaining social distance. So the virus surged within a short time.
Sandeep Bhattarai, currently studying in Canada, feels safe and secure there instead of Nepal in the current situation of pandemic.
He said, “We have heard from various sources that the corona cases are mounting in Nepal, and there is lack of safe quarantine and isolation facilities with even the corona positive persons living in quarantine not getting nutritious food.”
He added that even the citizens had not been following the safety protocols and were walking around openly as usual. “Therefore, looking at the fragile situation of Nepal I feel unsafe to return to Nepal though I love my country and would like to come home.”
Aashish Dulal from Hetuada, currently working in Saudi Arabia at the Saudi Airlines, holds a similar view.
He went to Saudi a year ago with the hope of making good money. But, when the COVID–19 began to grip the world brutally, many nations went to complete or partial lockdown to combat the virus.
Saudi Arabia had three months’ complete lockdown and during the lockdown, Aashish and his fellow Nepali migrant workers were obliged to stay indoors.
He said that during the lockdown, he felt restless and just wanted to return to Nepal, adding, “But luckily working in the government company, I didn’t have a problem at all for food and shelter.”
However, the situation of other Nepali workers working for private companies and construction companies is still critical and such migrant workers are stranded without proper food and shelter, he added.
"Looking at the current COVID scenario in Nepal, I changed my mind of returning to Nepal, because I feel safe here. Even if I am infected with the virus, there will be good quarantine facilities and food in Saudi Arabia," he added.
Similarly, Nikesh Khanal from Bara district, who has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past several years, wanted to return to Nepal for Dashain festival, but his plan has been dropped due to a ban on international flights.
He said that those who are skilled workers and are working in good companies have no problem with food and accommodation. In fact his company paid full salary even during the lockdown. “But I have heard that people working in private companies are facing problems.”
“After returning to Nepal, my other friends and I had planned to open a hotel, but now there is no chance of opening a hotel in Nepal and even if I return, there is no employment opportunity, so I will stay here for a couple of years more.”
But his mother, Tara Khanal, said she would be happy to be with her son in Nepal during such pandemic.

Suzanne Nepali, who is studying in Australia, said, "I miss Nepal a lot but in the midst of coronavirus, I feel safe here, even though corona infection rate is high in Australia. Everything here is in order and people follow the system," she added.
Nepal has recorded over 25,000 confirmed COVID–19 cases and about 100 deaths so far and the fear of infection is ever growing.
Migrant workers and even students who wanted to return to Nepal are now afraid to do so due to the lack of safety measures against the coronavirus and lack of job security in Nepal.
However, the Supreme Court had already issued an order directing the government to bring home the stranded workers at its own expenses and many such workers have been rescued too, but questions always arise about how they will be deployed and sustained in Nepal and if they feel safe and fortunate enough to stay home. 


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