Chinese cross-border merchants face heavy losses as large quantities of exports from China, including perishable fruits and seafood, are stranded at entry points of Nepal after bilateral land trade was suspended for fear of the spread of the new virus over the past month.
Nepal's Karnali provincial government announced plans to lock overland entry points along the Purang-Yari Port located in its jurisdiction on Friday to curb the possible spread of the virus.
This is the first land port crossing between China and Nepal to be publicly suspended by the Nepalese government, amid the threat of a new virus outbreak in its neighboring countries.
Other two major treaty ports for imports from China, which are the Gyirong-Rasuwa Port and Zhangmu- Kodari Port, were also essentially closed temporarily on the Nepalese side, though no official announcement was made for the closure reason or reopening date, according to Chinese merchants stranded at the port.
More than 100 trucks loaded with thousands of tons of goods, including perishable fruits, seafood, household goods and light industrial products, have been stranded at two major ports waiting for the approval to enter Nepal, a Chinese merchant surnamed Yu told the Global Times.
"Even though the Tibetan government has implemented strict preventative measures, Nepalese customs officials are wary of the risk of a virus outbreak. Some of the trucks have been lining up near the port for more than 20 days, leaving the truckers to eat and sleep in their trucks," said Yu.
The Tibet Autonomous Region had reported no new cases of new virus for 38 consecutive days as of Sunday and its only confirmed case was cured and discharged from a hospital on February 12.
Affected by the virus outbreaks and temporary road closures caused by heavy snow, overland trade between China and Nepal has been basically stagnant in the past month.
"My trucks carrying 4,000 tons of apple have been waiting in line for 20 days. If we are still not allowed to enter Nepal, the apple will rot soon. We cannot repay the loan for such a big loss," Gao Kangwen, a Chinese trader, told the Global Times, adding that renting a truck costs him 500 yuan ($72) per day.
The Nepalese government suspended the visa-on-arrival program for nationals of five countries including China and Iran, which were badly affected by the new virus, on March 2.
Nepal confirmed its first and so far only virus case on January 25, while its neighbor India saw the total number of people infected reach 40 as of press time. Bhutan reported its first case on Friday.
Nepal has tightened up measures along the border with India to contain the possible spread of the virus by deploying health teams at 37 border points.
Nepal also decided to allocate funds to set up a quarantine facility and isolation ward in the Karnali Province where the Purang-Yari Port is located, according to local media.
The scarcity of some products in Nepal that rely on Chinese imports has driven up their prices, Gao told the Global Times, citing the wholesale price of garlic, which has risen to 700 Nepalese rupees ($5.94) per kg from 200 rupees a month ago.