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Published On: March 23, 2020 10:55 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Preventing Covid-19 outbreak

By all means, we are living through the most dangerous times in history since the World War II. Countries are being ravaged by the disease, economies are falling apart, people are dying.  Even the countries with supposedly the best health systems—America, Germany, France, UK, for example— are failing to save their citizens. Italy alone lost over 700 people on Sunday. The world is in panic. In Nepal, we do not have resources needed to put things in place.  Despite this, the government has taken some of the measures to keep the country and people safe from the contagion of the pandemic. The government has announced lockdown, appealed people to stay home and not to leave (except in case of emergency) and cancelled all incoming and outgoing flights. Besides, it has taken actions against those who are spreading fake news or who are involved in black marketing. These are the good measures which the editorial board fully supports. As a matter of fact, Republica stands with the government in all the measures it takes to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in Nepal.

But every other day, new set of challenges is emerging and therefore the government needs to step up further efforts to keep the contagion at bay. We see problems on main two fronts at the moment. First, since the government announced lockdown on Friday evening, thousands of people have left the Kathmandu Valley, shifting the demographic pressure to rural areas for now. But how prepared are our health institutes at the local level to detect the infection if some report the symptoms of Covid-19? The government needs to keep all local health facilities in alert position.  Second, despite lockdown, there is open mobility of people along the border points between India and Nepal. Hundreds of Nepali nationals are returning home from India and a number of people from Nepali side also entering India through the same border points but, as we have found, there is lack of proper screening of at the border points.Human resources are not adequate at the health desks and they do not have basic tools either. Some 20,000 people are said to have entered through Gaddachowki transit point of Mahendranagar on Saturday, without proper screening. This is against the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) which require all those who come from a country affected by coronavirus to be quarantined for 14 days.

India should prohibit entry of people from Nepali side without screening and Nepal should do the same about people entering from Indian side. We would say it is getting late to close these border points completely and keep them open only for the purpose of importing or exporting logistics, food and fuel. The government should consider sealing the border with India for the time being and for this it needs to discuss with Indian side immediately. Since free movement is going to pose threat to both the countries, there is no reason why India should not agree to this proposal. Like we have been maintaining in this space, Nepal should not miss out on a single effort to prevent this pandemic from spreading in Nepal.

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