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Nepal’s Parliament Is Dissolved as Covid-19 Rages

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal’s Parliament was dissolved on Saturday for the second time in five months, deepening a political crisis in the Himalayan nation as it struggles with a devastating Covid-19 outbreak.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced the move shortly after midnight, saying that new elections would be held in November. Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and various opposition groups have been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to form a government.

Opposition politicians expressed surprise, apparently daunted by the prospect of planning for an election while the coronavirus is wreaking havoc. Nepal, an impoverished nation of 30 million that borders India, has been recording about 7,000 new infections per day, and because testing is limited, experts believe that is a significant undercount.

“We may not be able to organize big rallies because of Covid right now,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, an opposition leader. “But these sorts of unconstitutional and undemocratic acts will be challenged at the court of law again, and we will politically campaign across the country.”

dissolved the lower house in December after disputes within his coalition.

ruled that Mr. Oli had overstepped his powers and ordered Parliament reinstated. That put the prime minister in the uncomfortable position of facing a vote of confidence.

As expected, he lost that vote. But Ms. Bhandari, the president, tasked him with continuing to lead the government as the head of the largest party, with the expectation that he could assemble a majority within 30 days. On Friday, Mr. Oli recommended that she dissolve Parliament to pave the way for new elections.

Opposition lawmakers said they had mustered enough votes by Friday to make one of their number, Sher Bahadur Deuba, the new prime minister, but supporters of Mr. Oli disputed that claim.

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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India’s Neighbors Struggle Amid Regional Covid-19 Outbreak

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Most of Nepal is under lockdown, its hospitals overwhelmed. Bangladesh suspended vaccination sign-ups after promised supplies were cut off. Sri Lanka’s hopes of a tourism-led economic revival have collapsed.

As India battles a horrific surge of the coronavirus, the effects have spilled over to its neighbors. Most nearby countries have sealed their borders. Several that had been counting on Indian-made vaccines are pleading with China and Russia instead.

The question is whether that will be enough, in a region that shares many of the risk factors that made India so vulnerable: densely populated cities, heavy air pollution, fragile health care systems and large populations of poor workers who must weigh the threat of the virus against the possibility of starvation.

Though the countries’ outbreaks can’t all be linked to India, officials across the region have expressed growing dread over how easily their fates could follow that of their neighbor.

huge, maskless rallies in India hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi even as infections rose. Likewise, both the ruling and opposition parties in Nepal held large political gatherings after the prime minister dissolved Parliament in December.

told CNN on Saturday that Nepal’s situation was “under control” but acknowledged that “political instability” had led to “some mistakes.” On Monday night, Mr. Oli lost a vote of no confidence in Parliament, throwing Nepal into further turmoil.

Aid workers have warned that the parallels between Nepal and India may continue, as hospitals turn all but the most critically ill patients away. With medical oxygen supplies running short, as they did in India, Nepal’s government has imposed quotas for each hospital, which doctors say are far from adequate. Reports of patients dying from insufficient oxygen have spread.

said in a statement last week.

Vaccines are unlikely to help immediately. Nepal paid for two million doses from India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest producer of vaccines. But as India’s crisis has escalated, its government has essentially halted exports, leaving Nepal a million doses short.

India’s pause has also scrambled vaccination plans in Bangladesh. Late last month, the authorities there announced that they would temporarily stop accepting new registrations for shots after supplies from the Serum Institute were cut off.

95 percent of its eligible population. Bhutan last month suspended entry for foreign workers, after experts cited concerns about laborers coming from India.

The border between Pakistan and India was closed even before the pandemic because of political tensions. But in Pakistan, too, cases are rising. Asad Umar, the official leading its coronavirus response, cited the fact that “the entire region is exploding with cases and deaths” to explain new lockdowns.

coronavirus response plan last May, it estimated that local facilities would be insufficient if there were more than 5,000 active cases at once. Now there are more than 100,000.

For many Nepalis, anger and sorrow have mixed with utter helplessness.

Pramod Pathak, a businessman in the border district of Kailali, has watched in anxiety and sorrow as migrant workers returned from India. They have crowded every day into overwhelmed testing centers, or — for the many for whom there are no tests — simply crammed into shared cars and returned to their villages.

“The virus is transmitting as they travel in jam-packed vehicles,” Mr. Pathak said. “There’s no safety for them no matter where they go — be it India or Nepal.”

Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu, Nepal; Aanya Wipulasena from Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Vivian Wang from Hong Kong. Julfikar Ali Manik contributed reporting from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Chencho Dema from Thimphu, Bhutan.

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