AFTER the upsurge of a deadlier second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal, most of the economic activities have come to a grinding halt once again for the past couple of weeks. Life has become more difficult, especially for daily wage earners, since they hardly have an opportunity to work following the imposition of the prohibitory order in most parts of the country. This measure has been taken to rein in the contagion. They have been finding it quite difficult even to manage two square meals a day as all the sectors have now remained closed due to the pandemic. However, all the three tiers of government have intensified efforts to contain the killer virus disease. But the situation does not seem to be very encouraging as hospitals have continued to be overwhelmed by the coronavirus patients. Many medical facilities are still running out of oxygen and other life-saving medical supplies. Another more worrying thing is that several COVID-19 hotspots have kept reporting more virus infections and deaths on a daily basis. The pandemic has been spreading even in the far-flung parts of the country.
There has been an increasing trend among the Nepali workers, especially unskilled and semi-skilled ones, to go to different parts of India in search of jobs. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalis go to India to work and study. When the first wave of COVID-19 hit India last year, a lot of Nepalis returned home after being infected with the pandemic. As the Indian government imposed a harsh nationwide lockdown, the workers lost their jobs there. Since there were no virus testing and quarantine facilities at border points, those workers transmitted the disease to others in their hometowns. This problem was rampant in Sudurpaschim and Karnali provinces. The same problem has repeated this time around but with more critical repercussions.
According to a news report published in this daily on Thursday, there has been an influx of people from across the border of Sudurpaschim Province. The records maintained by the provincial police office show that some 600-700 Nepalis enter Nepal from India through Dharchula border point of Darchula, Jhulaghat of Baitadi, Gauriphanta and Gaddachauki of Kanchapur every day. With hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 infections and thousands of fatalities daily, India has now become a global epicentre of the pandemic. What is worrying is that more than 75,000 people have arrived in Sudurpaschim Province alone since March 25. The COVID-19 pandemic has started engulfing India since mid-March this year with the outbreak of new variants of the virus.
Over 27,000 people have also gone to India via these border points during the same period. Many of them might have been infected with the virus. So, they could have contributed to spreading the deadly virus disease to the remote villages. However, the Sudurpaschim Health Directorate has made it mandatory for all returnees to undergo health checkups at the health desks set up at the four main border points. It has adopted the policy of sending the patients who test positive for the virus in the antigen test to different COVID-19 hospitals within the districts concerned. In view of these issues, the federal, provincial and local governments need to collaborate to provide relief to the daily wage earners.