Keep it going

Published On: April 13, 2020 08:06 AM NPT By: Republica

In nearly three weeks since the nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, life is changing across the country. In Kathmandu, scarcity of essential goods such as rice, lentils, cooking gas, vegetables, and meat has become acute. People are purchasing these items at much higher prices. Fresh vegetables have become the scarce commodities in Kathmandu since the lockdown disrupted transportation channel and vegetable sellers have also confined themselves within their households due to the fear of transmission. The people to suffer most from this situation have been the farmers, who have not been able to harvest the crops and vegetables from their fields and supply them to the market. As a result, in many places across the country, they have left the ripe harvest uncollected. Elsewhere they are spilling the milk on the road or feeding the cattle with the fresh vegetables. The situation today is while fresh vegetables and crops are rotting or remain uncollected in the fields in some parts of the country, people in other parts are struggling to obtain the same.

Comedy of errors

Published On: April 12, 2020 08:24 AM NPT By: Republica

Prime Minister’s office sometimes make such egregious mistakes that people wonder who actually run his office, if those who are inside his office even possess the basic minimum common sense and, more than that, if the prime minister himself even cares about how these activities are earning bad name to him and his office. This happened again on Thursday. The verified Facebook page of the Office of the Prime Ministers and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) posted a note at 4 PM, saying that those stuck in Kathmandu due to lockdown would be allowed to go home. Online news outlets quickly posted breaking news saying that those who are interested to go back home will be able to do so from Kathmandu and that the transportation for this purpose will be managed by the government. Soon after OPMCM posted the status, ruling NCP’s leader and Province 5 Chief Minister, Shankar Pokhrel, wrote a contradictory post denying the decision.  Around the same time Lekhraj Bhatta, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, told a TV channel that the government was indeed going to facilitate people’s movement to their hometowns.  Then the coordinator of high-level coordination committee formed to prevent and contain the COVID-19, Ishwar Pokhrel, posted a message on Facebook at 6:29 PM, saying that no such decision has been made.  Then the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement around 7 PM informing that no decisions to allow people to leave Kathmandu have been made. Then the verified Facebook page of the OPMCM was suddenly deleted around 8 PM. So within four hours on Thursday, there was one after another contradictory message coming out through the social media posts of the responsible government ministers and OPMCM. It was as if they were playing a prank with the people who are struggling with a lockdown in Kathmandu and wish to leave for their hometowns if a safe arrangement for that purpose is made by some authorities.

Take it seriously

Published On: April 9, 2020 08:20 AM NPT By: Republica

The country is already in two weeks of lockdown and we don’t know how long it will go. While the government is concentrating efforts (though inadequate and less effective in some cases) to combat the threat of COVID-19, including testing and tracing of the possible and suspected cases, it’s getting too late to address the adverse implications stemming from this, particularly shortage of essentials to carry on day-to-day life, which if ignored for too long, will become the matter of life and death for the people. Yes, people have forgone their livelihoods, abiding by the government’s request and also in the hope that the lockdown is in their best interests, but lives must be taken care of. People have begun to say: ‘We will die of hunger before the virus kills us. We are running out of foodstuffs and we have no money left to replenish it with new ones.’

What’s the plan?

Published On: April 8, 2020 09:01 AM NPT By: Republica

Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli addressed the nation on Tuesday. But frankly, his address does not inspire optimism, confidence, and hope among the people who have been struggling to keep going during these hard days of lockdown. The PM has touched on all aspects. He talked about the deaths of Nepalis abroad, spoke of how many are infected across the world and in Nepal, how suspected people are being put in quarantine, what is the situation of Nepalis returning home from India stuck at the border due to lockdown, how the government is providing additional facilities to the health professionals working from the frontline, how it is coordinating and working together with provincial and local governments in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, so on and so forth. He urged all to stay home to remain safe and asked to maintain physical distancing, asked foreign returnees to stay in quarantine for at least 14 days and also informed that he had started holding talks with the head of states/governments to take stock of Nepali nationals in various countries. Appreciating the role played by media, he urged them to disseminate positive news and information to encourage people to be strong enough to cope up with adversity.

Slow, unsteady

Published On: April 7, 2020 08:51 AM NPT By: Republica

Nepal’s response to the threat of coronavirus has been too slow from the very beginning. Come to think of it, the threat of alarm about this deadly virus was raised as early as late December, 2019 when cases appeared in China. By January, it was known to everyone in Nepal and the world about the rapidity of spread, the prospect of recovery and the fatality rate. Within this month, the first case was reported in the US as well as in other countries. By January end, the WHO had declared it a global public health emergency. Nepal too had the first coronavirus case this month. In February, the outbreak spread as far as Italy and Iran and the number of fatalities was fast increasing in these countries. And on March 8, the WHO declared it a global pandemic. What were Nepali authorities doing all this while?

Reason to worry

Published On: April 6, 2020 08:52 AM NPT By: Republica

We have almost completed two weeks of nation-wide lockdown. These two weeks have been largely successful in that people have complied with the government’s orders and they have refrained from coming out of the home. Since the country went on lockdown, the number of positive cases of COVID-19 has increased to nine. On Saturday the first locally transmitted case in Kailali district was confirmed. This, the experts have warned, could be the beginning point of contagion. With this, the government has taken more strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. People have been barred from moving from one village to another, one province to another province and one local unit to another. Provincial and local governments have been told to ensure foolproof security to medical professionals deployed in the frontline to combat coronavirus. The cabinet meeting on Saturday has also directed the concerned government authorities to ensure the availability of protective gear for health workers involved in curing coronavirus patients. This is a good decision at a time when doctors have been complaining of a lack of adequate PPEs and other medical equipment. But they will feel assured only when they get enough PPEs.

Fire the corrupt people

Published On: April 5, 2020 08:08 AM NPT By: Republica

Developments of the past one week have raised serious questions about the conduct of the Nepal Communist Party government. They indicate how low the actors close to the government can go to make money during the life-threatening crisis of COVID-19 and to what extent they can fall to hide their mistakes from the public. First, there was the procurement scam of medical logistics. The company to which the government awarded the contract for this job, Omni Group, had no prior experience of supplying medical goods.  The contract was awarded in haste and in highly inflated rates. Some of the medical items brought by the Omni group were as many as 28 times more expensive than normal market prices. When this came out in the media, the government canceled the contract with the Omni Group. When an online newspaper, Kathmanduexpress, published the report about the collusion among relatives and contacts of serving ministers, IT consultant to the Prime Minister’s Office Asgar Ali and PM’s other advisors, that report was deleted by Ali’s nexus without the knowledge of the online newspaper. All this was done, it has been established, by those who are close to the power centers and who are in this game of making money by abusing power, tarnishing the image of the government and the country.

Feel some shame

Published On: April 2, 2020 08:22 AM NPT By: Republica

Actually, this should be the time when health authorities are expending all their energies for testing the suspected cases and administer treatment. This is the time for the public health authorities to receive praise from the people because of all the good works they are doing. And the ministry of health and the government should be receiving accolades from all sides. But they have become the subject of harsh public criticism, even anger, because of their own doings. Early this week, the Health Ministry purchased medical logistics from China to test and treat patients of COVID-19. That was the right thing to do. Nepali health facilities have no tools to test the patients suspected of coronavirus and the government had to procure them. But now it has been revealed that almost all the medical items, costing over billion rupees, were purchased at way too high rates, as many as 28 times higher than normal market price for some of the items.

Say no to stigmatization

Published On: April 1, 2020 09:21 AM NPT By: Republica

The world is under the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic—affecting each and every aspect of our life. Lockdown and social distancing have become new normal. Needless to say, no one has been immune to the economic and social fallout of this crisis. Yet, the countries are combating it by taking various measures, because of which people from across the world have started seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Hardest hit the Chinese city of Wuhan has gotten back to normal, for example, and many others are expected to follow suit. Amid the global crisis, however, there is also a rising unity among people to help out those who are suffering or who need help. We have been seeing the good number of good Samaritans coming forward to contribute toward the alleviation of pain and chaos emanating from the pandemic, signaling that the humanity in us is still alive. But sadly, and very, unfortunately, acts of stigmatizing people who are tested positive or who are even just suspected of infection have also started to come out.

We need a commander

Published On: March 31, 2020 09:40 AM NPT By: Republica

As the nationwide lockdown enters its second week, people are desperately looking for a reassuring leader at the helm of our government. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is recovering from a kidney transplant and Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel is technically in charge of the coronavirus response team. However, we have yet to see the type of leadership a crisis demands.