Thursday, 16 July, 2020
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OPINION

Ways To Fight Virus



Santosh Khadka

Today most of the countries are under lockdown for fighting the novel coronavirus. The pandemic has laid bare the poor health infrastructure not only in the poor nations but also in the powerful ones like the US and the UK. The South Asia has of late become very risky zone of virus compared to the other regions due to the rising number of virus cases. With eight COVID-related deaths and over 1,572 cases as of Monday, Nepal is now in the midst of anti-corona battle. The country went into lockdown from March 24 and this continues till June 14. Between January and March, Nepal took steps to prevent the outbreak of virus by procuring essential supplies, equipment and medicine, upgrading health infrastructure, training medical personnel and spreading public awareness of the contagion.
The logic that the government should have imposed restrictions on the international travels one or two weeks earlier was vindicated, as those who came to Nepal during the lockdown did not strictly follow its requests for staying self-quarantine for 14 days. Based on South Korea’s experiences in handling the virus, I would like to offer some ideas to contain it in Nepali context.
South Korea applied social distancing as an effective measure to bring the pandemic under control. It let businesses run across the country, without going into lockdown. With decline in new cases, life returned to normal. It is true the South Korean model can’t be fully applicable in Nepal but if we stress on social distancing more than the lockdown, the situation would not have been much painful as of now. The lockdown just helps slow down the epidemic, it can’t prevent virus’s spread completely. For the effective social distancing, the people must fulfill civic duty and loyalty to the state that help keep the virus at bay. The public must extend support to government by abiding by its guidelines and instructions.
The government should provide enough financial and human resources to the local bodies which have a key role in contact tracing and treatment of virus-infected patients. It is necessary to depute sufficient health workers with required number of testing kits so that scope of testing can be expanded to broader section of population. Learning from the SARS epidemic of 2003, South Korea took proactive measures to test hundreds of thousands of people for infection and track the potential carriers. But we have different situation. The hospitals in Nepal were/are largely unprepared to deal with the wave of virus cases due to lack of ICU facilities, personal protective equipment, isolation wards and health workers in the imminent future.
As a popular and responsible government, it must not allow the private health institutions to conduct coronavirus test by charging certain amount of fees from the people. The low income people can’t afford the expensive fees. This will only erode the government’s credibility. The government should provide free test services to everyone under the banner of “Save the Nation’ campaign. If Nepal government requests Nepalis living in different nations, they should contribute to the COVID -19 funds. I believe Nepalis from abroad are willing to support in this time of unprecedented crisis. 

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