Kathmandu: When Covid-19 appeared to be under control, the government didn’t care much about the pandemic.
It allowed mass gatherings. There was no regulation to control crowds in markets. People were ignoring health safety protocols. Even though public health experts warned of a third wave, the government didn’t make any preparations to ward off the possible outbreak of the third wave, as if Covid-19 was vanishing.
But, in the last 15 days, Covid-19 is spreading like a wildfire. The Covid-19 tally is breaking new records every day. Although the pandemic has already spread like a wildfire. The situation is already out of control, but the response from the government’s side is sluggish, like always.
On Friday, Nepal reported 10,703 Covid-19 cases.
The government, after the abrupt rise in Covid-19, restricted gatherings of more than 25 people. But it has failed to impose the restriction even in its offices.
In the Department of Passport, District Election Office, service seekers have been crowding up to get services, without following health safety protocols. Only a few wear masks properly, and there is no social distancing.
The decision to restrict gatherings of less than 25 people is limited to papers.
Public transportation is no exception. In Kathmandu, public vehicles are ferrying passengers in full capacity. When Nepal Live Today reached Ratnapark and Sundhara bus stops on Friday to assess the situation, we found that buses and microbuses were putting in as many people as possible, passengers getting in without complaining about noncompliance with safety protocols. Both drivers and passengers were flouting Covid-19 protocols.
The government has already failed to achieve its vaccination target. As of Thursday, Nepal has vaccinated 62 percent of the eligible population, short of its target.
Public health experts have warned that vaccination centers could become a Covid-19 hotspot.
When Sher Bahadur Deuba was appointed the Prime Minister in July, he announced that the government would vaccinate tw0-third population by mid-January. But despite having enough vaccines, the campaign is sluggish. Earlier in December, after vaccine storage was overwhelmed, the Health Ministry planned to inoculate 500,000 people every day. But, the plan also failed. Still, the government has more than 10 million Covid-19 vaccines but is able to vaccinate only about 200,000.
The government, now, has made it mandatory for the public to present vaccination certification to enter public facilities and access government services. The decision led to long queues in vaccination centers, but the government authorities have failed to manage crowds.
Public health experts have warned that vaccination centers could become a Covid-19 hotspot. “It seems like there are Covid-19 patients everywhere. So people can catch Covid-19 in vaccination centers itself,” said a medical professional at the Teku Hospital.
In the meantime, local administrations in the Kathmandu Valley have decided to enforce an odd-even rule of vehicles, under which vehicles with odd number plates are allowed to ply the road on odd days, and vice versa. The decision has been criticized by public health experts.
Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert, wrote on Twitter that the odd-even rule only increases the risk of infection.
According to a senior official at the Ministry of Health and Population, the decision has no rationale. “The decision only increases the number of infections as public vehicles will ferry more passengers,” the official said.
Public health experts Nepal Live Today talked to said that without prompt, reliable and effective response to battle the pandemic, Nepal risks becoming the hotspot of the unimagined rapid surge, rise of serious cases and even deaths.