Sunday, 12 July, 2020

COVID-19: Challenges And Preparedness


Rakshya Khanal


Since the beginning of human civilization and its evolution, infectious diseases have spread and grown along with the spread of human population. Pandemics have occurred through the ages. The present time is not the first occasion that this globe has been through a pandemic.
In Nepalese culture, it was preferred for adopting a safe distance in making houses and planting trees in every house which had ensured our safety. But rampant growth of houses along with the rapid growth of population, increase in pollution, unmanaged urbanisation, increased global travel and integration created unpredictable problems regarding the outbreak of infectious diseases.
According to World Economic Forum, COVID-19 the 20th pandemic of disease in human history and none of them has gone without taking lives of human beings. The pandemic which was named Black Death (Bubonic Plague) stayed for more than four years and took lives of 200 million people.
It was originated in rats and had spread to humans through infected fleas. The origination of COVID-19 by is unknown and debatable though the researchers suspect on bats and snakes. The vaccine to it is being delayed as the root cause is still unanswered.

Impacts On Economy
It is evident that the entire world is going to have a short term and long-term adverse impact as economy is no more territorial in this globalised era. Since the economy is inter-connected, even the less affected states (with COVID-19) are going to suffer economically.
Most of the states has imposed partial or complete lockdown that directly affects their economy and other state proceedings. Nepal might be, with its effective precautionary measures, succeeding in combating COVID-19 in terms of loss of human life. But the disease has surely affected our economy so harshly that a routine effort from government won’t be enough.
Its effect in every sector is yet to be measured but they will surely be enough to shock us. However, this economic loss is justified for prevention of increased mortality rate which is evident from the history we have been through. The Government’s priority will be in protecting the lives of citizens. However, it shouldn’t be limited to health because economic, educational, political and social disruption in the post COVID 19 is inevitable.
The government should start doing its homework for all future possible challenges and mitigation techniques. With the reduced labor force participation and lockdown of mobility of migrant workers, the individual income is sure to be fraught thereby reduction in revenues of the state. In addition, Nepal was progressively becoming reliant on remittance since past few decades.
The recent study shows that it contributes to 32 percent of GDP of Nepal. Now that the source country for remittance is itself in a lockdown and also near to recession, government has to be prepared for its economic disruption.

Change in Education System
Most of the nations around the world have shut their schools, colleges and universities as a preventive measure to combat COVID 19. Revival of existing educational system would be challenging for government and private sectors because even after the cure of this disease, the fear of social integration and gathering would still be there threating social integrity. This can however be a roadmap for the initiator/ stakeholder to come up with innovative ideas to change educational system and pattern of teaching not just during the pandemic but further.
Digitalized era can accept digitalized educational system. This is an opportunity where the educational institutions can introduce digital methods of teaching and learning, for instance e learning and podcasting where learners can have access to digital recordings through internet and can study downloading them in their personal device.
They can train the children to be acquainted with digital way of learning since it is going to be the cost-effective method of learning in near future. Many universities and schools in developed nations have proven eLearning to be effective and practical. However, since Nepal is not equipped with resources to materialize eLearning, it’s going to be challenging for the government and private sectors. To give effect to this, private institutions should take initiatives from their end rather than waiting for government to come up with the equipment’s and resources. This again requires complete and effective research and development. The government, before investing on eLearning, should invest on researches and development on how a developing nation can materialise it making it cost effective from every aspect.

Role of Media
The responsibility of trusted media is not just to ignore fake news, but also to counter the rumors, disinformation, fake news and stigma. Media is a catalyst of shaping public opinion. Media is trusted for all the information relating to this pandemic because the public have no other sources. Media, at least for the sake of humanity, shouldn’t involve in spreading disinformation about COVID-19 to attract public for its financial benefit.
This is not just the test of patience in public, but also a test of humanity. The act of spreading hoax about the origin, the measures to prevent pandemic and the consequence, the fake updates will put every human being in difficulty leading to threat on existence.
This act of disseminating false information not just shapes wrong opinion and doings and non-doings to save oneself from the effects of COVID -19 but undermine public trust in national health care systems and workings of government to combat the effects. The concerned state organ should make effective monitoring of the media specially focusing on rumors spreading in social media as it has become the first source of information lately.

Effect on Foreign Job
Despite numerous precautionary measures including travel bans, lockdowns, curtailing rights of movement and assembly of citizens, the government will still face challenges in combating global pandemic for its citizens staying abroad. Due to lockdown, they can neither earn and live abroad nor return back to their home country. Is foreign country ready to take care of its non-citizens? Is there any agreement between the states to take care of them? Are we sure they would do it for the sake of humanity? It’s uncertain because it’s all about state sovereignty and they are privileged to treat non-citizen their way. The government of Nepal is, therefore, obliged to ensure protection of its citizen.

In national level, effective preparedness and response has always been prerequisite to prevent extensive prevalence of the disease. For this, the government should increase its investment on developing or importing the required equipment, sanitation, public health infrastructures halting everything else for now.
This is quite challenging for under developed and developing nations and therefore government may require international assistance to materialize its cost-effective strategies amid resource-constrained settings.
Post COVID 19 would be more challenging for the government as it has to revive everything that was restricted and suspended. It would have to focus primarily on promoting human rights and ensuring social justice to its citizens. The right to assembly and free movement has to be revived.
On the other hand, it has to justify its responsibilities towards business that did not have the immunity to sustain the pandemic or the citizens who lost their job in the country or outside the country. The state may have to enter into various bilateral, regional or multilateral relations to promote international relation again to revive everything that is being halted. The government has to come up with effective policies and strategy to handle after effect of COVID-19 else state would again be trapped in vicious circle of poverty.

(Khanal is law student) 

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