COVID-19 Crisis Management Center is ‘nonfunctional’

Published On: March 20, 2021 06:30 AM NPT By: Ashim Neupane

The CCMC sat for a meeting after a gap of three months on Thursday

KATHMANDU, March 20: During the nationwide lockdown last year, the government formed the COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC) to make strategies and implement them to battle against the pandemic.

The role of the Center has now been limited to counting the number of people arriving in Nepal, and managing the dead bodies of COVID-19 infected patients. 

“The role of the center is limited to counting the number of people arriving in Nepal, even though the government had formed the agency to implement strategies to fight the pandemic. The only significant work the Center is doing right now is managing the dead bodies of COVID-19 patients,” a member of the Center told Republica.

A cabinet meeting, on March 29, 2020, set up the Center, dissolving a High-level COVID-19 Coordination Committee, which was earlier formed to fight the pandemic.  

“In the initial stage of the pandemic, all the decisions to fight the pandemic were made by the Center. All the decisions were also endorsed by the cabinet, but after two-three months, the government started making decisions on its own, and now the Center is obsolete,” the member added.

After a gap of more than three months, the center sat for a meeting on Thursday, deciding to recommend to the government to open cross-border transportation.

The 20th meeting of the CCMC decides to recommend the proposal of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport to the government to open the cross-border transportation. The recommendation of the Center comes at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases has started to increase in India.

“The Center is not inactive, it is just that the number of cases has decreased, so CCMC’s work has gone unnoticed,” said Khagaraj Baral, a secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers.

However, a health expert at CCMC, requesting anonymity said: “Even before the cases were decreasing, the government was not endorsing the CCMC’s recommendations. During the first phase of nationwide lockdown, the Center had recommended that the government relax lockdown gradually. However, the government kept on extending lockdown, ignoring the recommendations of CCMC,” the expert said.

Even the discrepancy in the number of COVID-19 death data of CCMC and the Health Ministry shows lack of coordination between the government and the Center. There was a huge difference in COVID-19 death data compiled by CCMC and the Ministry.

After several media reported the error, the government formed a three-member committee to investigate the discrepancy in the number of deaths. Two weeks ago, the government corrected the data, adding almost 700 deaths to the data of the Health Ministry.

“As the government has already started the second phase of the vaccination drive against COVID-19, the role of CCMC will further shrink. Having said that, the Center is keeping all the data of health equipment, PPE sets, among others to fight against the pandemic if a second wave hits the nation,” said Baral, coordinator of CCMC.

Though the cabinet formed CCMC, all the decisions related to the pandemic were made by the government and the ministry on its own. The Center had been a recommending agency; however, its suggestions were ignored by the government after a few months of its formation.

In the initial stage of the pandemic, the CCMC was mobilizing necessary health workers, security personnel to the affected areas. The Center also imported health equipment and test kits when the number of cases was increasing at an alarming rate.

As the cases were increasing, the government also gave up on contact tracing, which was assigned to the Center.

The Center was also managing quarantine and isolation centers across the country. As COVID-19 cases started to plummet, the government also shut down almost all the isolation and quarantine facilities.

“The risk of COVID-19 transmission is not over yet. And the country might see a second wave of transmission. So, there is a huge role for CCMC, but the Center seems to be inactive,” Narayan Prasad Bidari, a former member secretary of the Center, told Republica.

In the meantime, a senior official at the Health Ministry said that there is no need for CCMC as all the work to control the pandemic is being carried out by the ministry. “The Army alone can manage dead bodies, and we don’t need CCMC for that,” said a senior official.

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