Republica Morning Brief: Oct 20

Published On: October 20, 2020 06:00 AM NPT

Nepal on Monday witnessed as many as 3,790 new cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  With this, Nepal’s COVID-19 tally has jumped to 136,036 which includes 94,501recoveries and 757 Fatalities.  Meanwhile, the three districts in the Kathmandu Valley confirmed 2,388 additional cases taking the total number to 57,270. Of the cases detected on Monday, Kathmandu district alone recorded 2,008 cases while 281 in Lalitpur and 99 others in Bhaktapur were diagnosed with this disease.

The government has given additional powers to Chief District Officers (CDOs) to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). According to Minister for Communications and Information Technology Parbat Gurung, the CDOs are given powers to regulate, manage and control inter-district vehicular movement in the district that has more than 200 active cases of COVID-19 and suspend any works or services in the entire district or in parts of the district that has more than 500 active COVID-19 cases. Amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Kathmandu Valley and various other districts in the country, the government has decided to develop the existing quarantine facilities as isolation centers. The cabinet meeting also decided to make necessary arrangements to operate the electric crematorium in Pashupati Aryaghat premises on a clock basis amid rising number of COVID-19 related deaths, according to Minister for Communications and Information Technology Parbat Gurung.

The main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) has urged the government to be sensitive and save the public from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring free PCR tests and treatment to COVID-19 patients. In a statement issued by NC’s Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma on Monday, NC maintained that it is the duty of the government to consider increasing investment in the health sector and make efforts relating to COVID-19 response so as to protect the people from the infection. Terming the government’s decision not to bear the test and treatment expenses of COVID-19 patients as a very irresponsible act, the NC hit out, “By refraining from taking the responsibility of the expenses of the test and treatment of COVID-19 patients, the government seems to end the illusion that there is any government in the country.”

The government has decided to restore the fares for short- and long-distance public transportation services. A Cabinet meeting held on October 12 took the decision to retain the fare rates which were in practice before March 24, according to the government spokesperson and Minister for Communication and Information Technology, Parbat Gurung. The government had enforced the nationwide lockdown effective from the same day. Transportation operators are not allowed to collect any additional charges from the passengers, spokesperson Gurung added. The long-haul public transportation had resumed effective from September 17 though the lockdown was lifted on July 21 earlier this year. 

Most of the Transport Management Offices in the Kathmandu Valley have suspended their services from Monday after their staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. Except the Chahabil unit of the office that provides two-wheeler license related services, the rest of seven outlets of the offices have announced to stop their service delivery. Of these, the Transport Management Offices at Thulo Bharyang and Ekantakuna of Kathmandu and those in Jagati and Sallaghari of Bhaktapur, have already halted their services since the last week.

Relations between ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) chairmen duo KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal have soured further in recent days as the two leaders have accused each other of ‘creating’ the political standoff that surfaced in Karnali Province earlier last week. While Chairman Dahal has alleged that Prime Minister Oli was behind inciting a section of the party's lawmakers to move a motion of no-confidence against Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi -- a trusted lieutenant of Chairman Dahal --, Prime Minister Oli on his part has accused Dahal of running the party unilaterally, bypassing him while taking key decisions related to the party's internal affairs. Already miffed with Prime Minister Oli over his ‘unilateral’ decision to induct new faces in the cabinet -- all close to his own faction within the party -- the latest standoff in Karnali Province not only has further widened the differences between Oli and Dahal but also between Oli and leader Nepal. Party insiders argue leaders close to Nepal should have been inducted in the Cabinet if Prime Minister Oli was committed to ensure power balance and settle the intra-party differences. 

Parliamentarians belonging to the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) have decided not to receive Dashain allowances this year and deposit the money in the government’s fund established to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. A meeting of the NCP’s parliamentary party took a decision to this effect earlier this afternoon, according to Subhas Nembang, the deputy leader of the parliamentary party of NCP. Nembang said that the Dashain allowances of the NCP lawmakers in federal parliament will be deposited in the government’s COVID-19 Fund. The parliamentary party of the ruling NCP has also urged one and all to celebrate the Dashain festival in their homes to stop the coronavirus spread.

With the decision of not bearing the cost of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests and treatment of COVID-19 patients, the government has limited its COVID-19 response to just collecting the data of new and death cases across the country and announce the same to the people. As a matter of fact, the government’s response to Covid-19 was lighthearted from the very start. The prime minister and his ministers dismissed the virus as just another flu, and could be cured by simply drinking hot water and turmeric. Then the Nepalis working in India and elsewhere started coming back. The health systems were quickly overwhelmed. The designated isolation and quarantine centers became the superspreader hotspots. Then there was a massive corruption scam in medical equipment purchases, the infamous Omni Group scandal destroyed any faith that the people had in the government to take care of them.  The Ministry of Health and Population ( MoHP) on Sunday directed the general public to undergo PCR tests and COVID-19 treatments on their own.Earlier, the government had been providing free health treatments to COVID-19 patients.

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