Thursday, 21 October, 2021
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Vaccination Key To Fight Pandemic



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Bal Krishna Bhandari

The world today is passing through an unprecedented time owing to the deadly spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The death toll related to it has reached more than 3.1 million worldwide by the first week of May 2021 as per the World Health Organisation record. The United States of America (USA) is one of the worst-affected nations. India and Brazil are following the suit. In this panicky scenario, no one appears to be safe until everybody is safe in this interconnected globalised world.
Covid-19 has ravaged the whole world and Nepal is no exception to this. Putting things in this perspective, Nepal requires to be extra careful given the fact that she sorely lacks sufficient health facilities and manpower such as hospitals, medicines and other equipment. The medicine, such as remdesivir, and equipped medical beds and vaccines in particular are in short supply in the country.
Hardly, eight per cent of the total population has been vaccinated so far. The elderly as well as the young population has fallen prey to the deadly virus, of late. The Death toll is rising and threatening to surpass the previous year's deaths. The caseloads in recent times have hovered around 7000 or more every days since the last week of April this year.

No Preparation
Most precarious of these all is that our preparation to fight the pandemic seems a precious little which can not cater to the grave situation. Our three-tier government seems non-existent regarding the preparation against the preordained situation. Every country of the world has been hit hard by the second wave of the pandemic. We seemed to have been lucky as the second wave only hit us after it devasted our southern neighbour, India.
The Nepali government and the ruling party, in particular, wasted some precious times at its disposal which could be utilised for necessary preparation and creating public awareness. The Prime Minister presented himself sanguinely stating that Covid-19 is no longer a disease that gets cured easily with a little gargle of hot water mixed with guava leaves. Contrary to the people's expectation, the ruling party wasted times with their intraparty infighting and mudslinging.
Not only the politicians and people in power and authority are to blame for this situation, we too have been responsible. We remained off guard. People seemed to be careless. For instance, they are not wearing masks and attending political gatherings and social functions en masse without adopting proper health safety and social distancing protocol.
Political parties and the government paid no heed to imminent threats, which has the potential of creating a chaotic situation in the country.
A Lesson For Nepal
India, of late, remains hard hit by the pandemic's second wave. Daily caseloads are shooting up alarmingly. More than four hundred thousand people have been infected with the disease daily with over 3000 deaths. Despite India being the capital of world pharma, it has been struggling to owe to the shortage of medicines and equipment such as oxygen cylinders.
Countries including China and Pakistan have offered to help India. It is and should be an alarming bell for Nepal. Nepal should be vigilant and strictly scrutinise people alongside its border with India. A virus does not respect the border, regulation of it should be the foremost priority. The border may be sealed until the virus cases substantially subside in both countries.
The closing border is not a solution as such. People may be allowed to come in in a limited number. Security situation must be beefed up to control the influx of people. And at the same time, concerned local government should be mobilised for the establishment of quarantine centres along the border area.
People coming in should have their health checked up before they entered Nepal. Political parties can act well in creating awareness such as for wearing the mask, using sanitiser at times and maintaining social distance. These simple acts could become a life-saving recipe in these extraordinary circumstances.
Nepal, since the beginning of the pandemic, has been vocal for the easy availability of vaccines to all people and countries of the world. Nepal is of the view that the Covid-19 vaccine should be made global public goods and accessibility to it should be extended to every country regardless of its size and strength. Life-saving vaccines should not be calculated in monetary transactions.
Contrary to our expectation, some powerful countries including the USA and the UK are holding in the intellectual property rights of Covid-19 vaccines. They have had already the super storage of vaccines. It seems that vaccine supremacy will rule the entire world for a considerable time.

Way Out
Nepal should put forward its rationale demand to obtain the vaccine for its people as the vaccine is a key solution to the problem. As the chief of the WHO stressing for a fairer distribution of vaccine states that the present vaccination drive is not fair enough as 80 per cent of the vaccines are at the disposal of powerful countries. Nepal has to pursue its robust diplomacy first to obtain Covax Scheme, which is designed to procure jabs to poor nations by WHO.
In conclusion, Nepal prides itself on its location between two giant neighbours India and China worldwide. Both our neighbours are the leading powers of the 21st century, also the Asian century in the making. Nepal should make it a point that both neighbours are equal to us.
At the same time, we should be trustworthy enough to count on and also sincerely addressing their legitimate interests. We should equally focus on our priority such as exploring the options of vaccines that best suited.
Nepal should not miss any opportunity. It is only by seizing this opportune moment in our favour that we can best fulfil our vaccination drive at home. Nepal must work in tandem with domestic actors as well as global partners. The litmus test of the government also lies in bringing in vaccine while maintaining balanced and friendly relations among countries of the world.

(Bhandari is third secretary at the Nepali Embassy in Colombo.)