LIKE many countries worldwide, Nepal is also now facing a more challenging situation when it comes to coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of infections in the country has been increasing significantly. On Tuesday alone, a whooping number of 83 confirmed cases of the deadly virus were detected in various parts of the country, including Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Of them, 39 cases were discovered only in Parsa district while Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts reported nine and eight new cases, respectively. Together with these cases, the number of people infected with the virus in the country has already surged past 200. Most of the infections have been detected lately as the government has expanded testing. However, it is cheering to note that the country is yet to report even a single serious illness or death from COVID-19. Besides, as many as 33 patients have already recovered. The condition of the remaining patients who are now undergoing treatment at different hospitals across the country is also satisfactory.
But the contagion seems to have begun spreading rapidly even at the community level in Nepal. Initially, only those who had returned from overseas were found infected with the virus. The situation has now worsened with the virus infecting other people as well. In Parsa, two journalists were among those infected while a security personnel and a nurse have been tested positive for COVID-19 in Bhaktapur. The Terai districts are at higher risk of the virus transmission due to a long porous border with India. Most of coronavirus cases are associated with those who have returned from the southern neighbour. Although Nepal and India have imposed lockdowns since the last week of March as part of their efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the movement of people across the border has not stopped completely. As India has resumed limited passenger train services since Wednesday, it may definitely add a challenge to Nepal. The country will have to make extra effort to control the movement of people along the border. Many Nepali migrant workers have wanted to return home. Because the pandemic seems to have spread extensively across India, a lot of Indians are also interested in coming to Nepal for safety and work.
In such a situation, the Government of Nepal must strengthen its border security to prevent the cross-border movement of people. This initiative, however, will prove to be beneficial for both the neighbours to fight the deadly virus. Apart from this, the government needs to ramp up facility for virus screening. An extensive testing and isolating those infected with the virus may alone be the best way to contain the spread of the contagion. It should also tighten the nationwide lockdown until the situation improves noticeably. The government must continue to implement restrictions by putting people's health at the centre. However, due consideration should be given to the gradual resumption of economic activities as the protracted lockdown has hit the national economy hard. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) has decided to cancel all the permits issued for operating vehicles from one district to another. The Ministry said its decision is coming into effect from May 14. The move has been taken considering an alarming rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and rampant misuse of permits.