The Nepal government on Wednesday decided to ease the lockdown starting from Thursday in low-risk areas, including Kathmandu Valley, by allowing markets to reopen and private vehicles to ply while adopting effective precautions against COVID-19.

A Cabinet meeting decided to make the lockdown flexible and give momentum to economic and market activities that have been halted completely since the government imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 24 to prevent the spread of the virus, The Himalayan Times reported.

The government has been facing complaints of loss of business, income and even lives due to harsh restrictions on public movement since more than two-and-a-half months.

Even private sector representatives had expressed reservations against the continuous extension of the lockdown and had requested the government to change the modality and allow markets and businesses to resume operations gradually, said The Himalayan Times report.

On May 30, the government had extended the nationwide lockdown for the seventh time till June 14.

As the number of cases is rising sharply in recent days, Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs earlier announced more stringent measures to discourage movement of people from one district to another by making it harder for people to get vehicle passes.

Nepal has been under lockdown since March 24 after the second COVID-19 case was reported.

The country has so far reported 4,364 COVID-19 cases, with 15 deaths.