The prohibitory orders that were eased gradually have been further relaxed in the Kathmandu Valley from Tuesday. When the prohibitory measures were introduced some two and a half months ago, the number of coronavirus cases in the country’s federal capital was more than half of the total infections reported across the country. The number seems to have come down significantly in recent days. Like the Kathmandu Valley, other major cities in the country have also reported a significant decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases. Keeping in view the decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases, these cities are also gradually relaxing the prohibitory orders and trying to help restore normalcy in the lives of the ordinary public. In the Kathmandu Valley, the local administrations have scrapped the odd-even rule for vehicles, and vehicles from outside the Kathmandu Valley have been allowed to enter the Valley for urgent tasks. The local administrations had earlier relaxed the prohibitory orders, allowing all types of businesses to stay open during designated time periods each day. If we look at the marketplaces, we get an impression that the COVID-19 pandemic is over already and we have already declared our victory over this fatal virus.
While lifting the prohibitory order was an urgent step to help especially those in the lower economic strata, our tendency to take COVID-19 for granted and demonstrate sheer negligence toward taking preventive measures could be a blunder. Of course, the number of COVID-19 cases has come down in recent days. But this is not because the pandemic is over and the transmission rate has come down. This is instead because of the prohibitory orders that were enforced for about two and a half months. This is also a reflection of the low number of COVID-19 tests being conducted across the country in the past few weeks. The government used to conduct over 20,000 tests a day. However, this number has come down to as low as 4,000 a day in recent weeks. If we take into account the suggestions of public health experts that a large number of people have decided not to go for COVID-19 tests, the situation of COVID-19 in the country looks further alarming. The fact that the country is still recording over 2,500 cases a day through some 11,000 tests a day shows that the threat of COVID-19 continues to exist and this threat is going to stay with us for months, if not years, to come. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, there are currently 22,998 COVID-19 patients in home isolation, 2,692 in institutional isolation, 571 in ICUs, and 180 on ventilators as of Monday.
In light of these facts, the best way forward is to make a fine balance between health safety protocols and people’s livelihoods. It is equally important for the government to ensure the availability of COVID-19 vaccines to all people in the country. It is good news that the government is preparing to bring at least four million vaccines from China and that Nepal is receiving another 1.5 J&J vaccines from the COVAX facility in the next few weeks. As the pandemic situation continues to ease in India, Nepal is likely to secure additional vaccines from India in the next few months. Expansion of the vaccination drive will definitely help us save more lives. However, the immediate challenge that lies before us is how to keep ourselves safe and create an environment where the government does not require enforcing fresh prohibitory orders. The onus lies not just on the government but also on each citizen in the country. All people in the country should understand that the COVID-19 situation in the country could get worse anytime soon if they do not follow proper health safety protocols as advised by the World Health Organization. Wearing a mask while going away from home, using sanitizers or washing hands frequently with soap and water, and maintaining physical distance from others could help us stay safe until all citizens in the country are able to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Let’s all act responsibly now so that we do not have to regret it later.