Nepal will be on partial lockdown for about two weeks in an unprecedented move to contain the possible spread of the novel coronavirus that has rampaged through the world. In his televised address on Friday, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called upon fellow citizens to stay home and do not go outside until there are urgent works. He announced sweeping measures that include the shutting down of all services (from March 22 to April 3), except for the essential ones, closure of international flights (from March 22-31) and suspension of long-route public transportation (from March 23 until the further notice). The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has now claimed thousands of lives in different nations. It first broke out in Wuhan of China but its epicentre has now shifted to Europe and the US, affecting over 150 nations.
This is a reason why the Government of Nepal decided to ban all international flights and the entry of all foreigners. Prior to this, the government had barred only the foreign nationals from the virus-hit counties from entering Nepal. Likewise, the government has enforced the compulsory health screening at the border points. It is very necessary to deploy the rapid response team of doctors at the Nepal-India border points because the two nations share open yet unregulated border. Many Nepalis are returning home from India in hordes. If the returnees are not detected well, there is the risk of the outbreak of the virus that has already surfaced in many parts of the southern neighbour. Without further delay, the government should deploy both civilian and military medical staff to screen the people coming into Nepal from India.
There is a rational ground behind the government’s stringent steps to restrict the mobility of people. The COVID-19 is highly contagious. It transmits from human to human when the virus-infected persons remain close with the healthy ones. This requires maintaining social distancing and avoiding going into crowd. As PM Oli said, the people need to change their habits and conduct, and follow proper hygienic and sanitary rules at home during the health exigency. Prevention is better than cure. So adopting the precautions is the only way before the nation to check the risks of the virus. Unlike the developed nations, we do not have the advanced medical equipment, testing kits, adequate health professionals and other infrastructure. In case the country comes in the grip of pandemic, it will leave us scrambling.
Still there is no need to get panicky as Nepal falls into the green zone of pandemic, according to the analysis of WHO. Moreover, the government has left no stone unturned to ensure the security of people. It has closed down the non-essential services for the time being. But the essential services as outlined by the Nepal Gazette continue to operate. They include postal and telephone services, transporting passenger and goods through water, land and airways, printing and government press, communication services, internal security service, drinking water, services related to tourist shelter, petroleum products, hospital, banking, insurance, electricity and transport, storage and delivery of daily essentials, among others. This is the difficult time and the citizens should maintain self-restraint and carry out their duty towards the state by embracing the government’s instructions that put public health above everything else.