24th March 2020

BREAKING NEWS – Covid 19 and The Gurkha Welfare Trust

COVID 19 in Nepal

Due to the swift and effective actions of its government, limiting movement and enforcing quarantines, the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal has been slower than neighbouring countries. That said, the risk is high and the risk to our Gurkha veterans and widows even higher, due to their age and their health.

Should the worst happen and numbers drastically increase, the consequences could be devastating given the poorly-equipped healthcare facilities and the lack of medical infrastructure in-country.

We are keeping abreast of all government directives and ensuring our staff adhere to the guidance provided. You can read the latest information from our team in Nepal below.

In summary:

Our staff are working remotely where possible.

At our Residential Homes, staff have moved in with the guests full-time to allow them all to quarantine from the outside world.

Even during lockdown our teams have been out visiting vulnerable veteran and widow homes to check their welfare, distribute medication and give out financial aid.

Staff have been repatriated from various projects across the country which have been halted. We have been able to continue many of our water and sanitation programmes -bringing clean water to people’s doorsteps.

We received a letter from our Patron HRH Prince of Wales on 27 March wishing the Trust well in these unprecedented times. You can read the letter here.

Our Vice Patron Joanna Lumley OBE has issued a rallying cry to staff and supporters. You can watch the video here.

Latest update from Nepal: 10 October

There has been an unprecedented rise in the number of daily cases of COVID-19 in Nepal this week (3,500 on Wed and 4,300 on Fri). The Kathmandu Valley continues to account for the majority of cases (averaging 60%). The total number of cases in Nepal now stands at 98,617 with 26,684 active cases and 71,343 recoveries. 590 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported. Kathmandu Valley now has over 15,500 active cases. Seven Districts have over 500 active cases (the 3 KTM Valley Districts plus Morang, Sunsari, Chitwan and Rupendahi).

Following some staff members testing being exposed to or testing positive for the virus, our Welfare Centres in Bagmati and Dharan have been temporarily closed this week and will remain closed until all tracing and testing (with negative results) is completed. Welfare and medical telephone consultations remain available for Gurkha veterans and widows.

In Bagmati staff had some contact with someone who has since tested positive. Though the primary contact has tested negative, due to infection timelines, the other staff currently in quarantine are being tested on Saturday. If negative, we hope to re-open the Centre on Monday.

At our Welfare Centre in Dharan a symptomatic staff member tested positive, and two staff who work in our Residential Home in Dharan (who had returned from leave and were in quarantine) have also tested positive this week. The integrity of the Residential Home “bubble” was not breached.

Currently, across Nepal 45 staff members are in precautionary quarantine and 17 staff members are in self-isolation. The sharp increase is due to the ongoing situations in AWC Bagmati and AWC/RH Dharan.

Previous updates from Nepal

7 October

The number of new COVID-19 cases increased sharply over the weekend exceeding well over 2,000 per day, with an increasing percentage in the Kathmandu Valley (60-70%).

The total number of cases in Nepal now stands at 86,823, with 22,219 active cases and 64,069 recoveries. 535 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

18 September

COVID-19 cases are now averaging 1200 cases per day, with around 50% of these still occurring in Kathmandu Valley. The total number of cases in Nepal now stands at 59,573, with 16,241 active cases, 42,949 recoveries and a total of 24,124 in  isolation or in quarantine facilities. 383 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

Despite the continuing rise in COVID cases, national and regional lockdowns were substantially relaxed this week, with the resumption of domestic flights and long distance public transportation, and the opening of hotels, restaurants and relaxed opening hours for shops. All schools remain closed.

14 September

New COVID-19 cases in Nepal are still averaging 1,000 each day. 57% of yesterday’s new cases were from Kathmandu Valley.

The total number of cases in Nepal now stands at 54,159, with 15,117 active cases, 38,679 recoveries and 6,536 in quarantine facilities. 354 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

Lockdown measures continue to be extended. Both of our Residential Homes remain locked down.

7 September

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal is increasing by around 1,000 per day and now stands at 46,257. There are currently 17,027 active cases of infection, compared with 28,941 recoveries. The number of people in quarantine centres is 4,703. In total, 289 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

21 August

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 29,645.  The average number of daily cases is around 650, spiking at over 1,000 cases on Tuesday.

126 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported (an increase of 22 during the week).

There are 11,555 active cases of infection and 11,768 people are in quarantine centres.

Currently 14 Districts have over 200 active cases.  5 Districts (including Kathmandu) have over 500 active cases.  Multiple localised lockdowns remain in force or have been extended across Districts and Municipalities.  Since the last update, Kathmandu Valley, Kaski, Lamjung, Khandbari and Terhathum have imposed lockdowns.

A Gurkha widow in Pokhara (ex 6GR) sadly passed away on 18 Aug following a positive PCR test and with underlying medical conditions.

We have also had news that two wives of Gurkha veterans are currently in hospital in Kathmandu with COVID-19 symptoms as well as a Gurkha Singapore Police Force veteran.

Our Area Welfare Centres across the country are adapting to the re-imposed lockdowns They remain open, but are generally limited to providing telephone consultations and home visits for essential and emergency support only.

The payment of cash-paid pensions for Gurkha veterans and widows will continue as per the scheduled programme.  For the remaining Aug payments and for all Sep payments, we will pay an advance of one month's payment to ensure their financial security during the lockdown period.

We continue to monitor the impact of the Monsoon on beneficiaries. Two house re-builds in Chitwan and Phidim have been approved using our Disaster Relief funds.  Other less serious cases are being managed with smaller Hardship Grants.

Our two Residential Homes remain locked down.

14 August

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 24,957. The number of daily cases hovers between 450-650 per day. There are currently 8,025 active cases of infection, compared with 16,837 recoveries. The number of people in quarantine centres has increased to 14,769. In total, 95 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

Five remote districts are reported to have no active cases. There are over 1,300 active cases within Kathmandu Valley.

7 August

General Situation:

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 21,750. The number of daily cases hovers between 250-400 per day. There are currently 6,296 active cases of infection, compared with 15,389 recoveries. The number of people in quarantine centres has reduced to 9,470. In total, 65 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

• The increase in new cases has resulted in multiple, localised lockdowns (or Prohibitory Orders) across 15 Districts. The Districts subject to Prohibitory Orders are: Sunsari, Rautahat, Banke, Syangja, Mahottari, Bara, Parsa, Nuwakot, Dhanusa, Saptari, Sarlahi, Jhapa, Morang, Bajhang and Darchula.

• The repatriation of Nepali citizens from overseas countries continues to recover approximately 1,000 people per day.

Current Status:

• We have minimised non-essential movement in any districts with over 200 active cases and continue to comply with the curfews.

• Syangja District has extended its lockdown until 13 Aug and so our Welfare Centre there continues to provide essential services only.

• Both of our Residential Homes continued to be locked down with no visitors nor visits.

27 July

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 18,613 (an average increase of 100-150 cases per day).

• There are 5,440 active cases of infection, and 13,128 recoveries.

• The number of people in quarantine centres is just under 18,000. 45 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported.

20 July

• Shielding measures to be applied to medium and high-risk staff members have been issued.

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 17,658. 40 deaths have now been reported.

• We're currently awaiting an announcement from the Government of Nepal on what will happen after we reach the next lockdown milestone on 22 July.

• Heavy monsoon rainfall over the weekend has resulted in floods in the eastern Terai.  Over 100 deaths from landslides and floods have occurred in Nepal since June, and this figure is expected to rise due to the reports of people still missing. Heavy rainfall is predicted to continue in the coming days.

6 July

• Pension paying begins at all of our key Welfare Centres in Nepal today. The veterans and widows attending are being closely screened.

• We are arranging home visit payments will be made subsequently to those who are unable to get to our Welfare Centres.

3 July

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 14,519.  31 deaths have now been reported.

• The number of people in Quarantine Centres continues to reduce.  Nearly 10,000 Nepalis have been repatriated so far from overseas, and there is a steady decline in the number returning from India through the 20 designated border crossing points. Health Ministry officials have stated that approx 6% of COVID-19 cases have been identified outside of quarantine centres in clusters of transmission within local communities.

• The lockdown has been extended in its current form until 22 July.

• Locust swarms in the Terai and lower hill areas are expected in the coming days, with attendant damage to crops and agriculture.

• We are continuously re-assessing progress on all of our projects that are yet to complete due to the lockdown, and the impact on the programme for the year ahead.

• Our Rural Water and Sanitation team have now completed 102 out of 109 WASH projects for this year.  The remaining 4 gravity-fed projects will be completed in mid-July, but the 3 remaining drilling projects will take longer.

29 June

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has now risen to 12,772.  28 deaths by/with COVID-19 have now been reported.  All 77 districts of Nepal have been affected by the pandemic.

• Since the lockdown was imposed in Nepal on 24 March,  807 deployments have taken place and 2,993 of our Gurkha veterans and widows have been visited at their homes.

• We continue to actively encourage Gurkha veterans and widows to open bank accounts so that we can pay them a pension this way. Although some progress has been made, there is scope to increase the proportion of bank-paid pensioners where this is appropriate to their situation.

26 June

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen to 7,848, with 586 and 671 new cases reported on Wed/Thu respectively.  74 Districts are now affected.  A total of 22 deaths by/with COVID-19 have been reported. The steady reduction in the numbers held in quarantine centres has continued (now 116,000).

• In general, most small shops, banks, businesses and offices are now open, but no public transportation (other than taxis) is generally available.

• With the relaxation of the lockdown, we are now seeing more of our Gurkha veterans and widows turning up at AWCs for medical consultations and other services.  Appropriate infection prevention protocols are in place.

• For our 100 earthquake-resilient Homes programme, 109 projects are either completed already, or are estimated to complete by 30 Jun 20.  Only one project in Gulmi will be delayed until the end of July.

15 June

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal stands at 5,760 and continues to rise at well over 300 cases per day (425 yesterday). 72 out of 77 Districts have now been affected. A total of 19 deaths have now been reported.

Over 140,000 people are in quarantine centres, with more than 4,700 in isolation facilities. The repatriation of overseas-based Nepalis is ongoing.

• We are increasing the amount of bank transfers to pensioners, to replace travelling to their homes with cash.

• Few members of HQ staff are working in our offices, but the majority remain working from home where possible.

8 June

• The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal stands at 3,448 and continues to rise at well over 200 cases per day (323 on Saturday). 71 out of 77 Districts have now been affected.

• Over 170,000 people are in quarantine centres, with more than 2,500 in isolation facilities. The repatriation of overseas-based Nepalis has started, but initial figures returning have been relatively low.

• We will continue in our current operational posture, adapting as necessary to new restrictions or relaxations, and exploiting opportunities to re-start more projects.

• Staff at our Residential Home in Kaski are being accommodated within the compound from today and will isolate the residents and staff in the same way as our Residential Home in Dharan until further notice.

1 June

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal continues to rise at over 150 cases per day, and now stands at 1567. 57 Districts have now been affected. 120,000 people are in quarantine centres, with 1,100 in isolation facilities.

We have distributed PPE to our 20 Welfare Centres, allowing them to give them to local hospitals and health facilities.

The lockdown has been extended to Sun, 14 June, with borders closed and International/domestic flights suspended until 30 June.

An earthquake measuring 4.8 magnitude occurred in Dhading District (Sunaula Bazaar) on 30 May at 2136hrs. No damage/injuries at our Welfare Centre there or among our pensioner population have been reported.

29 May

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen sharply this week, and now stands at 1042, with a fifth death reported, and the virus now reported in 47 Districts. 187 cases have recovered and been released. The number of daily cases has increased significantly in the last few days (156 yesterday). However, the majority of testing is being done on asymptomatic individuals at quarantine facilities, where over 70,000 people are being held. Therefore, despite the significant increase in reported cases, this does not yet indicate that community transmission has begun. The WHO still categorises the transmission stage in Nepal as "sporadic".  Critical factors in sustaining the containment include: lockdown measures and contact tracing/testing, controlling the migrant inflow from India, the possible repatriation of Nepalis from other countries, and the management and security of quarantine facilities.

The current lockdown remains in place across Nepal until 2 June.

Severe weather in East Nepal on 26 May damaged Solar Panels at our Residential Home in Dharan and caused disruption to power and water supplies at some  of our rural Welfare Centres. Heavy rainfall is also hampering vehicle movement.

The team have restarted our 3 Major School projects, 2 Community Halls, one Minor School extension, and the demolition of the old Welfare Centre building at Chitwan. This leaves 5 Minor School projects and 57 earthquake-resilient homes projects suspended. Efforts to re-start these suspended projects are continuing.

26 May

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal continues to rise steadily, and now stands at 675.  In the last 7 days, the average daily cases reported is 50. Positive cases have now been reported in 40 Districts across all seven Provinces.

We are planning to increase the scaling of PPE at our Welfare Centres so that they have the option to distribute limited quantities to local health and security institutions. PPE was donated to the District Hospital in Diktel last week. The Government of Nepal is focussing its efforts on supplying COVID Hub Hospitals and Isolation Facilities, which is leaving other hospitals and health posts under-resourced.  Because our Gurkha veterans and widows still use these facilities, donating small quantities of PPE will help keep them protected.

15 May

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal has risen sharply during the week to 258.  The pattern of cases remains mainly Terai-based, but isolated cases have also been reported in Kathmandu and other areas.

In response to the increase of cases, the Home Ministry has imposed new, strict restrictions on movement between Districts.

In response to the Home Ministry restrictions on inter-District movement, we have issued guidance to our Welfare Centres to continue the delivery of essential services (ie; medical and pension paying) for our Gurkha veterans and widows in our vehicles with diplomatic plates (and prior permission to travel).

Work on one of our Major School buildings at Jhapa re-started yesterday.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) installations and PPE distribution has now been completed at 6 COVID facilities in Pokhara, Dharan, Biratnagar and.  Ad hoc hand-washing facilities have been installed at 30 village locations, with COVID related WASH awareness advice and training.

11 May

The lockdown in Nepal has been extended by the Government of Nepal until 18 May.

There are now 120 positive COVID-19 cases in Nepal. The recent increase in cases continue to occur in Terai districts bordering India. There are no indications yet whether these new cases are primary or secondary/tertiary infections.

All of our Rural Water and Sanitation programmes, piping clean water to remote villages, have now been re-started. 71 have been completed since the lockdown started, allowing 2 new projects to start this week.

28 April

The Government of Nepal have now announced the lockdown will continue until the end of Thursday 7 May and have also extended the suspension of international and domestic flights up until 15 May.

Since the lockdown was first imposed on 20 March we have been able to conduct 333 vital deployments during which 1,172 Gurkha veterans and widows have been visited and given essential funds and medical provision.

24 April

No significant change to the overall situation, however the spike in reported cases in Udaypur this week has prompted a strictly enforced containment of that district, and a heightened concern in Dharan, where we have a Welfare Centre.

The number of positive reported cases of COVID-19 in Nepal is now 48.

Our Rural Water and Sanitation team have re-started a total of 31 suspended projects .and are being re-supplied with funds, food and material if required. The availability of construction material will be the limiting factor on some projects.

Our doctors from our Welfare Centre in Kaski continue to operate the Gandaki Health Emergency Operation Centre hotline this week. Their week-long rotational shift finishes tomorrow, and they will be rostered to continue this contribution in the coming weeks.

21 April

Lockdown is currently confirmed until 27 April.

All staff who can are working from home and the majority of our projects are paused.

There was a spike in cases of COVID-19 in Nepal over the weekend (now at 31 total), though all were identified as overseas transmissions and thus the Government of Nepal remain in ‘stage 2’ of their response.

Though our vehicles continue to deliver vital medication and healthcare, in Dharan, where many of the new cases were reported we have temporarily paused movement. Our team are working with local authorities to ensure that essential care can be prioritised once movement restarts.

Our water and sanitation team have now re-started a total of 30 projects across the country. Our water projects bring clean and safe drinking water to remote communities in Nepal. 10 projects currently remain suspended.

14 April

Our in-country Director has posted a message on our website re. the importance of supporting elderly Gurkha veterans and widows during this time.

There have been two new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kailali and Rautahat Districts, bringing the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Nepal to 14. Both new cases were imported from India. Contact tracing is ongoing for the latest cases. Nepal remains at Stage 2 transmission.
The current lockdown expires tomorrow, but is highly likely to be extended. Announcement expected today. TIA and national airports remains closed until 30 Apr.

Medicine distribution and financial aid to Gurkha veterans and widows was successfully conducted at our Patrol Bases in Trisuli

7 April

The Government of Nepal have now extended the lockdown until at least 15 April, We are working with local authorities to ensure our vehicles can still travel to deliver emergency aid to Gurkha veterans and widows.

It may be necessary, if the lockdown is extended further, for us to distribute financial support (the pension we pay to vulnerable veterans and widows) to pensioner’s homes via our mobile medical teams.

PPE and medical supply distribution to our Welfare Centres across the country continues.

6 April

There are now 9 confirmed cases in Nepal and the first instance of local transmission.

Only medical personnel and medical supplies are permitted by the Government of Nepal to be in public – which allows us to continue caring for our most vulnerable Gurkha veterans and widows and providing medication and PPE where required.

We stand prepared to support our community should Nepal move to ‘Stage 3 transmission’.

2 April

No significant change in the political or operational situation. Lockdown remains. Today is a public holiday (Chaitra Dashain). Minimum manning has been extended for GWT Staff not required for delivery of essential services. Duty cover remains in place.

31 March

No significant change. Lockdown continues. The number of Gurkha veterans and widows reporting to our Area Welfare Centres for telephone consultations, medicine or pensions remains steady, and within the capacity of the minimum staffing we have arranged.  There have been some isolated incidents reported of veterans and widows not being permitted to travel to our Welfare Centres by local police – though we have been able to intervene.

30 March

The Government of Nepal have now announced an extension of the lockdown until midnight on 7 April.

Our staff at our headquarters in Pokhara continue to work remotely.

Additional personal protection equipment and other medical supplies will continue to be distributed across our 21 offices over the next week.

Home visits for Gurkha veterans and widows remain for critical cases only.

27 March

24/7 Area Welfare Centre duty cover will remain available, and an ‘on call’ doctor will be available in each of our key Medical Clinics for telephone consultations.

Staff at our headquarters in Pokhara continue to work from home.

A small number of Home Visits ongoing today to meet medical needs (mostly delivery of critical medicines to vulnerable Gurkha veterans and widows where local pharmacies are not available, or we have been unable to contact them.

Our vehicles have continued to distribute personal protection equipment and essential medical supplies reached Dharan yesterday.

26 March

Though Nepal is now in full lockdown, movement of our vehicles continues thanks to government permission, allowing essential equipment and medication to be delivered.

Our 21 Area Welfare Centres are equipped with enough stocks to last two months.

Our staff at our headquarters in Pokhara continue to work remotely.

Pension payments for Gurkha veteran and widows at Chitwan, Tanahun and Terathum are ongoing.

One of our vehicles distributing PPE and essential medical supplies reached Bagmati yesterday, and will collect additional medical supplies from Buddha Air Cargo and move to Dharan in the east of Nepal.

We have reduced staff numbers at our Medical Clinics but essential pharmacy distribution continues.

25 March

Staff in our headquarters in Pokhara continue to work remotely

Our pension payments to Gurkha widows and veterans are proceeding as scheduled (though with necessary  precautions and bank transfers where possible) in Chitwan, Tanahun and Terathum

Our Rural Water and Sanitation Programme is paused though many staff remain on-site. We are working on a recovery plan to bring them home.

Home visits to vulnerable Gurkha veterans and widows are restricted to critical cases only.

Our vehicles continue to deliver essential medication and personal protective equipment

Our Area offices are all now coordinating with provincial and district authorities to inform and seek support re. our current operations and movement.

24 March

Since the Nepali government announced a nationwide lockdown we have retained the ability to provide what they refer to as “essential services” such as medical and healthcare albeit on a restricted basis – for the time being

All of our staff in our headquarters in Pokhara are working remotely.

Our vehicles are still able to travel still as a result of the diplomatic plates they have. We are using them to ensure that essential medication is able to get to those in need and that staff who were out on deployment can be retrieved.

We are working with local banks to ensure our pension can still be paid to the Gurkha veterans and widows who rely on it.

We have had to halt all planned deployments for the time being aside from essential hardship and medical visits for our most vulnerable people.

We have also stopped our Rural Water and Sanitation programme to minimise the risk of spread amongst remote communities.

Medical appointments at our clinics across the country are being conducted remotely where possible.

Our Residential Homes for vulnerable Gurkhas and widows continue to operate with a reduced staff number.

We're distributing PPE and extra medication to our Welfare Offices and Medical Clinics across Nepal.

As the situation progresses we are diligently staying abreast of developments to ensure minimal impact on those most important to us – our vulnerable Gurkha veterans and widows in Nepal and our dedicated staff both in Nepal and in the UK.

The situation means that we have now taken measures to protect and reduce risk. Some of these measures may mean an impact on you, our supporters.

Advice for UK supporters

What is The Gurkha Welfare Trust's financial situation?

The financial effects of this global pandemic will be significant, both in the immediate and longer term. We recognise that all our donors will be facing financial challenges as a result of Covid-19. However the Trust is well placed to be able to respond to the challenges through prudent management of our reserves, and our ability to cover our core expenses in the short term. We will do everything we can to mitigate against impact on those we exist to support –  Gurkha veterans, but we cannot do that alone and your continued support is vital in achieving this

How do I make a donation?

Your support is appreciated now more than ever.

All of our UK staff are now working remotely. The changes in working practice mean that letters and cheques payable to The Gurkha Welfare Trust will be processed on a reduced scale and so your patience is appreciated. Website donations will be unaffected and we would encourage those who would like to give a gift, to do so in that way.

We pride ourselves on thanking you, our supporters for all that you do. We hope you understand that in these testing times that will not always happen quickly. Nevertheless please know that your gift is hugely appreciated.

Make a donation via our website

Can I make a donation via text?

Text GURKHA to 70085 to donate £5.

Texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to give £5 but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text GURKHANOINFO to 70085.

How do I contact a member of staff?

If you need to contact a member of our team, we encourage you to do this online where possible via email or Facebook chat.

To get in touch with our UK GWT team:

Email us

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Speak to a Nepali speaking person from the Gurkha Welfare Advice Centre

Email the Gurkha Welfare Advice Centre

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