“There is no proper coordination between three tiers of government to tackle pandemic”

NL Today

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In a recent discussion, experts stress the need for coordination between three-tier governments, and a collective approach to battle the pandemic

Kathmandu: There is a lack of proper coordination between the three-tier of the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus despite Nepal being hit hard by the pandemic, experts have stressed.

In a virtual discussion organized by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) South Asia in collaboration with Samriddhi Foundation on Tuesday evening, experts said the central government failed miserably in the battle against the pandemic.

According to Gagan Thapa, a member of the dissolved House of Representatives, the federal government should have acted like the federal government, not like a central government. “The federal government should partner with provincial and local governments, not impose restrictions without proper discussions,” said Thapa, who is also a former Health Minister.

Commenting on the enforcement of lockdown without discussion with local governments, Thapa questioned if Chief District Officers (CDOs) enforce Covid restrictions following a consultation with local bodies.

“CDOs have all the powers, but are their decisions based on some sort of evidence?” Thapa questioned, adding if the decisions were made by consulting with local bodies and other stakeholders.

“Lockdown is necessary to contain a pandemic, but the question is whether restrictions are effective,” he said. “The government can again impose restrictions without consulting stakeholders.”

Likewise, Dhawal Shamesher Rana, mayor of Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City, said the federal structure failed miserably, and even the provincial structures failed. “They [federal and provincial governments] were not prepared for what was there [pandemic]. Actually, nobody was prepared. There was a big confusion. In the beginning, there was no protocol. There was a dearth of funds, oxygen, equipment, medical staff,” he said. “And the different tiers of the government seemed confused.”

Despite the local bodies working to control the pandemic, there was no prompt response from the federal or the provincial government, said Mayor Rana. “We [local bodies] were told to do things without financial backup,” he added.

Discarding scientific evidence

Although Covid-19 was spreading at an alarming rate in Nepal, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had time and again claimed that Nepalis have a “strong immunity system” and suggested consuming turmeric and giloy water to fight against the virus.

Commenting on the baseless information spread by those in leadership, Thapa said leaders discarded scientific evidence. “They [leaders] spread baseless information on the immune system of Nepalis,” said Thapa.

Likewise, Mayor Rana said there was a false hope that Nepalis were quite resilient to the Covid-19. When the misinformation was spread, at the same time, Nepalgunj became the Covid-19 hotspot. “One day, a person tested positive for Covid-19, and the next day, results of 23 came positive. Then, Nepalgunj turned into a hotspot,” he said.

Ignoring the severity of Covid-19

Last year, Thapa went to the chamber of the then Health Minister to discuss about Covid-19 and ways to tackle the pandemic. As Thapa had already served as the Health Minister, he presented a document – identifying the need to invest in oxygen plants.

However, Thapa’s suggestions were not executed. “Had he listened to me or suggestions from experts, the situation would have been different. It was not about resources, it was not about money. We had resources. It was all about intent and decision. It was all about believing in science,” said Thapa.

“We could have saved a number of lives, and cities like Kathmandu and Nepalgunj wouldn’t have struggled for oxygen supplies had the leadership been proactive,” added Thapa. “The approach towards the pandemic was reactive, rather than being proactive.”

Thapa recalls that he had worked with a few hospitals and gathered some data consulting with other experts.

Even though Nepal has paid for a million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to India, it has failed to provide vaccines. “It doesn’t help if you give the first dose and fail to provide with the second dose of vaccine,” said Suhasini Haidar, Diplomatic Affairs Editor of the Hindu.

As India has ‘failed’ to provide vaccines, at least 1.4 million elderly population are yet to receive the second Covid-19 jab.

Vaccination in South Asia

Commenting on the vaccination in South Asia, Haidar said India provided vaccines to the South Asia countries in the beginning.

“However, India started to export vaccines to different parts of the world later. India did start with the neighborhoods like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, but if South Asia was vaccinated first, we could say that South Asia is not a threat to the world,” she said, adding that South Asia would have been in a much better position.

“We [India] did not take that chance and choice. Instead, India was exporting to different countries,” she added.