Considering the resurgence and fast spreading of the COVID-19, including its new mutant variant, the government has issued new restrictive measures to cope with the pandemic. At this stage, there is no complete lockdown order but large gatherings, which provide easy channel for virus transmission, have been banned. In this regard, gathering of more than five people will not be allowed in public places. Schools and colleges have been closed in major urban areas including the Kathmandu Valley till the end of May. Following of health safety protocols have been made stringent in public transport, shopping centres, hotels, eateries and offices. People will not be able to visit religious places such as temples, stupas, monasteries, mosques and churches. However, daily internal rituals, worships and prayers can be performed in these sites. Hotels, restaurants and eateries can be operated by strictly following safety rules but they can do so within specified hours only – from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
As this is the major season of cultural events in the capital valley such as the chariot pulling of Seto Machhindranath, utmost caution is needed for the celebrations. The government’s prohibitive order states that gatherings in any such festivals and jatras should not exceed 25 people. Similar restriction has been put in place for wedding processions, sacred thread ceremonies, new rice feeding rituals and funerals. Wedding season has begun after the Nepali New Year and market places have seen a surge in shopping activities. Such cultural events also involve partying and feasting which can pose risk of virus spread. The government has ordered the complete closure of cinema theatres, party venues, health clubs, gyms, swimming pools, weekly markets, sporting activities, rallies and processions.
The public should take the government instructions in a positive way and abide by them effectively as it concerns an urgent issue of public health. There might be some tendency to violate the safety rules which should be discouraged as they invite risky and even fatal consequences. It is the duty of every citizen to make relatives, friends and acquaintances aware of the use of masks, sanitizers and hand washing. Talking about it in polite words even with a stranger can make a big difference. Experts say that the coronavirus is becoming more risky and spreading ever faster along with new mutation, demanding more effective protective measures on our part. This is evident in the rising infections of the people of younger age groups including young children in recent weeks.
The virus is spreading in neighbouring India at an alarming rate and its direct ripple effects are being felt in Nepal, too. There was a positive respite in virus cases in spring and winter in India and Nepal and many Nepalis went to work in India taking advantage of the situation. With resurgence of new variant virus in India, they are now returning home in hordes. Due to open border, many of them are coming without undergoing screening at the border entries. This has caused fast spread of the virus in the country. In this situation, the onus lies on every citizen to act responsibly in order to win the battle against the scourge.