Thursday, 5 August, 2021
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OPINION

COVID cases are going down but we need more vaccines: Prime Minister

Edited version of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s interview with CNBC



First, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. Well, at this time we see a decline in the number of Covid cases in the country, that is a good sign. Do you think the worse is over?

The highly infectious and more lethal second wave of the pandemic started to hit us from late March this year, and the infection rates and the death rates were also acutely increasing. Because of this, we felt shortage of infrastructure, hospital beds, medical equipment and other facilities.
It was like a serious crisis when the second wave started.
But we gradually took serious measures and steps to reduce and control the pandemic. We urged our friends all over the world, the governments, the vaccine producers and the philanthropic organisations to support us. I would like to thank all our friends, our friendly countries, our neighbors and other organisations for supporting us generously.
We also took measures of restrictions, maintaining social distance, and wearing mask. Our people were educated and they cooperated us. Now the wave is under control and it is going down. We can say that about 75 per cent of the wave is decreased and about 25 per cent is in the effect now. We are trying to control it too.
Once there was shortage of oxygen cylinder and medical equipment. But we have coped with those shortcomings and there is not that sort of problem. Now we need vaccines and we are trying our best for this.

Yes, Prime Minister, on that issue specifically at vaccines, we understand that the G-7 countries are planning to submit one billion doses around the world for those countries in need. Is it your hope that you will receive some of those vaccines?

Until now we have received 3.2 million doses of vaccines from our neighbors India and China. We are trying to get more because we still need more than 35 million doses. So we are trying to buy from different countries like America and UK. USA declared to support us with some doses of vaccine. We are also talking with other countries to get adequate number of vaccines.

Could you be more specific about the status of supplies of the vaccines, especially from India and China? I believe you have just received the consignment of the Sinovac as well. So where are conversations going so far? Will you receive those supplies that concerned?

We are not getting from India because of their own condition and perhaps, may be, because of their court's order. But we are trying to get more vaccines regularly, more vaccines even from India. We are talking with China and we are hopeful that we can get more vaccines with adequate number from China.

What is your estimation as of now, Prime Minister, in terms of by when you think your country will be fully vaccinated?

If the vaccines are available for us within time, we hope that we can vaccinate our entire population within 2021 because it is just 30 million population. We have already vaccinated some of them.
We had started the vaccination drive immediately after India as we were second in South Asia among the countries to vaccinate their population. India is a vaccine producing county. But the supply was not regular as expected. As the supply was restricted, we were unable to vaccinate our people.
Still we have vaccinated the people like doctors, nurses and health workers who are working in the frontline. We have also vaccinated the security personnel working in the frontline. Also the old age people have been vaccinated. Now we are vaccinating the people of various age groups.
But there is a problem with it that it's hard to give the second dose of the same vaccine for those who have received the first dose already. We are trying to solve this problem also. Within this year, I think, we can complete the vaccination process.

There is a concern about the political crisis taking place at the same time that the health crisis is unfolding? What would you say to those who are demanding more political certainty at a time when they want to see the health crisis is solved?

The political situation in Nepal is worrying to those who have said that the parliament was dissolved twice in the past five months. So, what can you do to assure people that political certainty that you are working toward more political certainty as this health crisis unfolds?

In fact, some three and half years before, general elections took place. It was after the promulgation of the new constitution in Nepal. Everybody knows that my party got very strong support from the people and I formed the government.
After the formation of the government, I immediately started my work with the slogan of 'Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali' which was for good governance and economic development. Our economic growth rate was more than 7 per cent until the Covid-19 pandemic hit us.
We were also going to recover the trade deficit and balance our trade. We were creating more jobs and development works were going rapidly. Because of good governance that my government delivered, the government under my leadership got excellent result not only in the field of physical infrastructure, but also in the social sectors like education and health, and other areas.
So, Nepal has been recommended to be upgraded from its Least Developed County status to a Developing Country status. We are trying to reach the Sustainable Development Goals within 2030. Though it was a little setback because of the pandemic, we have not suffered that much hard economically because we have taken serious measures for not letting our economic journey be destroyed.
Actually, my political opponents and the opposition parties have been afraid of my success. What I have done in the development and social justice sector, in the empowerment of women, backward people and society has been a serious threat for the oppositions. They don’t have any particular issue for criticising the government.
We also controlled the pandemic successfully last year. And now, they are trying to topple the government through an unfair means. They are doing it not from the parliament and not through the people's verdict.
As you mentioned the move that I took five months before, when parliament was dissolved and dates for fresh elections were declared, my analysis was correct that the parliament could not give alternative government and it would not be able to give time and environment for the government to work smoothly. So, it was better to go to the people.