To address the plight of thousands of Nepalis stranded abroad owing to the COVID-19 health emergency, Nepal’s Council of Ministers have convened a meeting at the PM’s residence in Baluwatar. As the lockdown continues, and with signs the health emergency is going to remain until a vaccination is found, it is important to bring back stranded citizens – in a coordinated operation of course.

According to a government estimate, more than 100,000 workers who have lost their jobs overseas owing to the pandemic need to be repatriated immediately. These, and several others face economic and health uncertainty, amongst other uncertainties.

A meeting of the Corona Crisis Management Center discussed the modalities of returning Nepalis living abroad a few days earlier – its feasibility is likely to be discussed in today’s cabinet meeting.

While we await the decision, it is also important to understand the challenge of bringing back stranded Nepalese is a monumental task – Nepal lacks infrastructural facilities including quarantine provisions. Many have to be trusted to self-quarantine, which requires education and awareness about an individual’s role towards public health, and will also require follow-up checks. Ministry of Health must also ensure medical supplies are not in shortage, especially testing kits.

According to Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), more than 7000 Nepalis are infected with coronavirus worldwide with 96 deaths. Missions and embassies of Nepal abroad have a crucial role to play in collecting information, and assessing criteria for who gets to return first too.