The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life across Nepal and dealt a severe blow to the national economy. After the outbreak of the more contagious second wave of the virus disease in early April, the country reported hundreds of thousands of new infections and thousands of deaths. The nation’s healthcare system was overburdened with COVID-19 patients. The government had to take various preventive measures, including lockdowns, to break the virus chain. Such restrictions were successful, to a great extent, in bringing the contagion under control. But the restrictions were detrimental to the economic sector. Considering this, the government has now lifted some restrictions. The reopening of businesses and public vehicles has led to increased mobility of people in most parts of the country, including the Kathmandu Valley.
It is quite distressing that the country has now begun witnessing a surge in infections. The detection of cases with new variants such as Delta Plus shows that Nepal is still at high risk of the virus disease. Health scientists have also warned of a possible eruption of the third wave in India with the lifting of restrictions. They believe that the next wave of the virus disease could be more devastating. As Nepal shares its porous yet unregulated border with India, virus diseases like COVID-19 can easily spread across the frontier. Vaccination is one of the vital ways to prevent the transmission of the pandemic. The government has strained its every nerve to vaccinate people against COVID-19.
But it is not an easy task for the low-income nations like Nepal to import the live-saving jabs in sufficient quantity as they have been in short supply globally. Even amidst such a scenario, an inoculation drive has been going on across the country. Several friendly nations like China, India and the United States of America (USA) have extended their helping hand to Nepal by providing million doses of vaccines against COVID-19. Japan is another friendly nation to announce its vaccine support to us. Besides, the previous government had reached a deal with China for the purchase of vaccines. Under this deal, thousands of doses of vaccines have already arrived in Kathmandu. The incumbent government has also given top priority to vaccinating people and treating COVID-19 patients.
While assuming office on Wednesday, newly-appointed Minister for Finance Janardan Sharma approved Rs. 5 billion for the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) to purchase vaccines. He also sanctioned Rs. 961 million to buy ICU and HDU ventilators, Rs. 524 million for mobilising provincial and local hospitals. Similarly, Rs. 564 million has been sanctioned for different COVID-19 liabilities and risk allowance payments. The government is in the process of unveiling some appropriate and pragmatic policies to revive the national economy battered by the pandemic.
The new government has challenges of dealing with various natural calamities like floods, landslides and inundation and saving lives from the coronavirus pandemic. Addressing the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) steering committee meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said that the government would manage necessary budget to purchase vaccines. He added that that saving the lives of citizens is the government's first priority. It is equally essential for everyone to strictly follow all the health protocols to stay safe from this global public health crisis.