The Covid-19 has now become a reality for Nepal. Until Monday, Nepal had only one positive (and a recovered) case. Now another person, who recently returned from France, has been tested positive and she is undergoing treatment at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku. With this, panic level among people has sharply increased. Perhaps considering the seriousness of the case after this incident, the government on Monday enforced complete lockdown of the country. It is clear that the government had to announce this drastic measure after the appeal to the people to stay home, not to travel and thus take care of themselves went in vain. The curfew-like situation that has started from Tuesday morning has worked considerably well. Streets are empty and vehicles are not seen on the streets. But this, it seems, is true only in the main streets of the valley. Outside of the Ring Road and in inner streets, people don’t seem to care about the lockdown.
In fact, in inner streets there is a little effect. People are out sitting or standing in group, talking about coronavirus but they are not wearing masks. When they see the police van approach they disperse but when the police van is out of sight they repeat the same activities. Some are even seen to go out on a bike to see ‘what the lockdown is like.’ There are two main reasons behind this. First, when the government imposed the lockdown it did not properly communicate what it actually means for the people. For example, the government’s decision of Monday night says “no one should go out except for medical emergencies and food purchases.” This could have been understood to mean they can go out if it is for the purpose of buying food. If this point had been elaborated well, the people would know what they can do and cannot do. People are making crowds in front of grocery shops and they are panic buying because they are not assured that the government will make an arrangement to keep the supply of food smooth. The government needs to make an assurance, in words and action, in this regard immediately.
The second reason is obvious: The tendency to disobey the authority. People have not taken the threat of Covid-19 seriously yet. Most seem to be thinking that it won’t happen to them. It is such thinking which led the people coming from India to escape the quarantine facilities. Thus the government needs to spread the message of alert to the general public with greater frequency and tone of urgency. Perhaps it should mobilize the members of local governments and ask them to launch door-to-door campaign telling the people not to come out of home. They can spread the message regarding what will happen if they breach the government’s order. One reason why people have not taken the lockdown seriously is that the message of the lockdown has not been seriously communicated to the people. Nepali media, civil society and the government together need to spread the message of alert in such a way that people will start taking threat of pandemic really seriously.