The COVID-19 pandemic has impelled the people to undergo drastic changes in their mode of living after it restricted their mobility to the hilt. As it upturned normal economic, social, educational and cultural activities, the nations across the globe started to explore the various ways to fight the killer virus. One drastic step is the compromise of individual liberty for the sake of larger segment of population. Those who demand freedom to freely walk or assemble in the open spaces find it hard to co-opt the idea of limiting themselves within the four walls of their houses. But the coronavirus is such a deadly disease that its geometric growth can be cut only by avoiding crowd, rallies and gatherings for it fast spreads through the droplets of infected persons. The most effective preventive measure is the strict adherence to the physical- and social distancing rules and sanitation. So it requires tough behavioural adjustment such as self-restraint, discipline and abidance by health guidelines.
One reason why the East Asian nations witnessed fewer number of fatalities from the coronavirus compared to the western countries is that the citizens from the former unreservedly applied physical distancing and necessary safety protocols suggested by their governments. They set aside their proclivity to exercise civil, social and cultural rights in this time of existential crisis. At the moment of unprecedented trouble, the citizens and governments should work in tandem and support each other to mitigate the public suffering. The people should be ready to sacrifice their individual interest and discharge their duty towards the state. On the other, the governments should fulfil their greater responsibility to the citizens left out in the cold due to the coronavirus flare-up.
In the absence of proper coordination and communication between the two sides, undesirable activities are likely to happen to exacerbate the situation. On Thursday, violence erupted, all of sudden, at Pulchowk of Lalitpur after police tried to stop the pulling of the chariot of Rato Machhindranath as the area has been under the prohibitory order to control the virus spread. The ugly incident happened when the concerned stakeholders, including the representatives from Jypu Samaj and Guthi Sansthan, were holding a meeting on how to conduct the Jatra. The organiser said its members were not involved in the violent activities in which an innocent traffic cop was also mercilessly beaten up on the roadside. Scores of local protestors and police were wounded in the scuffle. The people have the rights to observe their festivals, fares and rituals but they need to either cancel such occasions or maintain a low profile while celebrating them, given the unimaginable circumstances triggered by the medical emergency.
Despite the tough measures, the virus cases are increasing at an alarming pace. It is not beyond the control if the people improve their behaviour and become aware of the danger arising out of their reckless activities. “The virus is spreading each passing day owing to two reasons – the habit of Nepalis to enjoy more freedom and low level of awareness of the virus threat,” says Dr Anup Bastola from Teku Hospital. Therefore, it is imperative for us to maintain a fine balance between freedom and responsibility to rein in the virus surge, thereby minimising the loss of lives and impacts of approaching economic recession.