KATHMANDU, June 20 (Xinhua) -- The authorities in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal decided on Sunday to extend the ongoing lockdown by an additional week till June 28 to help curb COVID-19 infections but relax the provisions of the prohibitory order significantly.
"We relax the provisions of lockdown including allowing private vehicles to operate due to decreasing cases of COVID-19," Dhundi Prasad Niraula, chief district officer of the Lalitpur district, told Xinhua.
"If the cases continue to decline even after the operation of private vehicles, we can consider allowing many other public vehicles to operate in addition to taxis," he said.
It is the first time that private vehicles are allowed to ply on the road under the odd-even-number rules since the lockdown was first enforced on April 29 to cope with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the Himalayan country in early April.
Under the new regulations, most shops are permitted to open on different days of the week, with department stores, shopping malls and shops related to sporting goods, garment, footwear, cosmetics, gift items and tailoring being able to open for a certain period of time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Likewise, shops handling gold, utensils, kitchenware, electrical items, automobile parts, electronic goods can open on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Shops selling construction materials can operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Besides, more people shall be allowed to participate in a wedding ceremony and more vehicles can be used for weddings.
The relaxation of restrictive measures comes after a meeting of the direction committee of the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre headed by Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli decided to impose a "smart lockdown" by relaxing the rules for some sectors.
On Sunday, Nepal reported 1,421 new confirmed cases, a sharp decline from the peak of 9,317 infections logged on May 11.
The country has now recorded a total of 621,056 COVID-19 cases, with 556,798 of them recovered already, while the national death toll stands at 8,726.
According to Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs, the lockdown had been enforced in 75 of the 77 districts in the country as of June 17.