PROPER response and handling can make a big difference when it comes to controlling the spread of COVID-19. While movement restrictions and early vaccinations have brought desirable results, common flaws like cultural and political gatherings held in indiscriminate manner have brought devastating consequences. We have good examples from New Zealand and Australia which have adopted restrictions with ruthless rules. Australia went so farther in its movement restriction that it announced jail terms for its own citizens coming in from the global COVID hotspot, India. Indian politicians are criticised for not exercising control measures in large gatherings of people. Brazil has also drawn criticism for failing to be strict enough to control the activities of the people fearing negative impact on the economy.
Lockdowns naturally have serious impacts on the economy but governments need to realise the fact that saving lives during this public health crisis is more important than anything else. In the context of Nepal, the virus spread could be controlled to a large extent if stricter measures had been taken on time to tighten Nepal-India border. This is not a normal time and the common people should not take border crossing as a risk-free activity. Large number of Nepali people, especially from the western and far-western areas, went to India for seasonal labour employment when there was some improvement in COVID-19 situation last winter. The mass exodus repeated back to Nepal when the second wave of the virus started to cause devastation in India. Even screening at the entry points was of no use as people were using unmonitored and secret trails to cross the border to enter Nepal. They were doing so to avoid the due procedure of being tested, put in holding centres and quarantines.
The health awareness level of the people is sometimes so poor that they are running away from the safety rules and putting lives in danger. In this regard, the local level of the government must maintain constant vigilance of the people coming from across the border. At the border points, there should be a control of people’s movement both to and from India. The rules must apply to both Nepali and Indian citizens alike. A flawed tendency is that we fail to feel the gravity of impending situation until things take a serious turn. A stitch in time saves nine, the saying goes, and preventive measures taken before it is too late, can save valuable lives.
So long as taking preventive measures against coronavirus is concerned, vaccinating the citizens is of paramount importance. This should fall on the due priority of the government. Timely and expansive vaccination drives have brought good results in Britain and the USA while the snag seen in the manufacturing and supply of Covishield shots in India has affected both India and Nepal. Nepal has not been able to receive the last one million doses of Covishield vaccine from India despite a procurement agreement. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has made a call to the international community to support Nepal during this health crisis. Talks have been initiated with Russia and the USA to provide vaccines. The Prime Minister also held talks with the UN resident coordinator in Nepal recently to help Nepal receive the Covax shots it is entitled to get.