It's still possible to control the Covid-19 threats

Published On: August 18, 2020 12:00 PM NPT By: Suresh Sharma

Suresh Sharma

Suresh Sharma

The author, former Spokesperson of Nepal Army, is Chief Executive Officer at Nepal Institute for Strategic Studies

It's getting late for the authorities to review their work and correct the shortcomings seen in the last six months.

Covid-19 has inflicted casualty not only on human beings but all other sectors—economic, social and psychological—with immense fear of uncertainty in everyone’s mind. No one knows when it will end. Experts predict that the entire world would suffer. Poor countries like Nepal will surely suffer the most and face the most daunting challenges.

Initially, the spread of the virus was relatively slow in nations such as China, Europe, the US and even India. But these countries—except China—failed to take proactive measures to stop the contagion from spreading further.

In Nepal, in the beginning of the outbreak, our policies were limited to issuing state advisory to people for self-isolation followed by few efforts of RDT and PCR tests and setting up ofquarantine facilities, which were poorly equipped. Before long, the killer virus reached our doorsteps.  People witnessed government’s lack of preparedness, even though ample amount of time was available and we still had workable amount of resources. In fact, the government threw people at the mercy of God. Monitoring and regulation of porous borders at the south was not properly followed. As a result, the virus found space to spread exponentially.

More criticality lies now with the rumor and the rising panic with lesser or even nonexistent civilian health and medical facilities across the country to handle the cases.  Media reports few days ago said that Epidemiology and Disease Control Division was understaffed to take care of necessary records and the hospitals in government’s radar also were incapable of handling cases satisfactorily because the available hospitals designated to handle Covid-19 patients have run out of capacities.  The state of uncertainty across the country has sent the people in panic mood.

At the worst situation, people will be compelled to resort to their home quarantines defying hospitals because hospitals will no longer be able to take the patients anymore. The panic, due to increased deaths, will add to anxiety of people, apart from badly impacting nation's economy and social life, creating deep distrust with the government, which could finally result in national security challenge.

In this situation, the Corona Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) set up by the government will have to work pragmatically and take up theresponsibilities to combat Covid-19. It needs to work for increasing medical facilities in every hospital, deploying more medical teams, including quick reaction teams (QRTs), and deploy them on the ground, to ensure smooth and uninterrupted treatment process at every level.

For better outcomes, CCMC should work together with medical teams and medical experts including the scientists, scholars, researchers related to the field to redesign a pragmatic approach to deal with what seems like an impending 'national emergency.'  In the worst case, as the crisis deepens the security forces with proven ability in handling disasters will have a crucial role to play. Similarly, a thought can be given for improving the infrastructures that already exist in many hospitals across the country by adding more resources.

Let us hope that the unexpected rise of current pandemic would not lead to national security challenges to the point where the civil authority’s capability is exhausted and even security forces become unable to manage the severity of consequences at the eleventh hour, with nation’s economy plunged, politics eroded, basic requirements like food and health service already scarce and threats of terror reaching to the point where law, order, and stability also begin to break down.

In times of national emergency of this scale, medical infrastructures of entire nation may have to be managed from the center by decentralizing authorities to the health facilities. It would be imperative to properly utilize government funds and resources to develop health facilities by the security organs. Their support to the civil authorities will instill confidence in the common people.

Our planners failed to see the potential threat of the pandemic when it started from Wuhan last year. We failed to learn lessons from how China controlled the pandemic and saved lives of people. If we had begun by setting up Covid-19 hospitals like in China, we would not have been in the situation we find ourselves in today.

It's getting late for the authorities to review their work and correct the shortcomings seen in the last six months.

The author is former Nepal Army Spokesperson.


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