Lesson forgotten: Political parties are up with huge public gatherings as new variant of Covid-19 is raising its head again

Public health experts argue one after another mass gatherings by political parties, without complying with the safety protocols, could spell disaster for Nepal.

Supporters attend the tenth National Congress of CPN-UML in Chitwan. (File photo/NL Today)

Ashim Neupane

  • Read Time 3 min.

Chitwan/Kathmandu: The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), this week, organized its National Congress amid much fanfare. The largest communist party of Nepal boasted about bringing hundreds of thousands of supporters to its National Congress venue in Chitwan.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the main opposition gathered hundreds of thousands of supporters on the Narayani Riverbank. What is more worrying is that the huge gathering was organized without following health safety measures.

According to the Chitwan District Police Office, more than 500,000 people came to Chitwan in the course of the four-day-long national convention.

Not only the main opposition, the national convention of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) is underway in Kathmandu. Likewise, the ruling Nepali Congress has scheduled its general convention for next week.

On the four-day-long event of the CPN-UML, only a handful of people were wearing face masks, and nobody was following physical distance. Nepal Police personnel, responsible for enforcing Covid-19 protocols, were busy in managing crowds and ensuring a smooth traffic flow.

The biggest irony is that the CPN-UML was leading the government during the first and the second wave of the pandemic–during which Nepal suffered the worst impacts including deaths and terrible effects on life, livelihood and economy of the people and the country. 

Experts argue that one after another mass gathering, without complying with the safety protocols, could spell disaster at the time the new variant of Covid-19 is raising its head in many parts of the world. 

The same party organized the National Congress with a huge mass gathering seemingly without paying care about the risks of the pandemic.

Experts argue that one after another mass gathering, without complying with the safety protocols, could spell disaster at the time the new variant of Covid-19 Omicron is raising its head in many parts of the world. 

Talking to Nepal Live Today, experts said that the consequences of the huge mass gathering would be devastating, given the detection of a new Covid-19 variant that is three times deadlier than the Delta variant.

It was the responsibility of the government to allow the CPN-UML to organize the national convention following all the health safety protocols. However, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, himself reached Chitwan to deliver a speech in the National Congress.

It seems like neither the government nor the main opposition are serious about the ongoing pandemic.

Nepali Congress leaders and cadres attend the provincial general convention of the party. (Photo: NL Today)

Even though the Covid-19 pandemic is slowly subsiding, Nepal is reporting as many as 300 cases every day.

According to an official at the Health Ministry, the leadership has always ignored the Covid-19 pandemic. “The government has always ignored the suggestions from the Health Ministry. Even the ruling party is organizing its national convention this month. This is a collective failure,” said the official.

Even during the start of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nepal, huge political gatherings were organized in Kathmandu, and other major cities.

“Following the political gatherings, Nepal saw a rise in the number of cases. But, the leadership has not learned a lesson. The number of active Covid-19 cases is still high in Nepal. Many infected might not have gone for testing,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist. 

According to Dr Baburam Marasini, a former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, the political parties have not learned lessons from the past. “It is wrong to organize such a gathering when the vaccination campaign has been sluggish,” he said. “only a few infected patients can spread the infection to a huge number of people in crowds.” 

RPP leaders spotted flouting Covid-19 protocols during the Unity General Convention of the party in Kathmandu. (Photo: NL Today)

Public health expert Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, however, has a different opinion. “Had Nepal aggressively inoculated its people, allowing huge gathering would not have been an issue. Still, only less than 30 percent of the population are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This means, the government should only allow mass gathering by following proper health safety protocols,” he said.

“Nepal has already lagged behind in vaccinating its population. So, from a public health perspective, organizing mass gathering during the pandemic was a wrong decision. The leadership should have been serious as the vaccination drive has been sluggish,” he concluded. “If a huge number of the population was already vaccinated, huge gatherings would not have mattered.”