Yesterday after the news broke out confirming a third case of coronavirus infection in Nepal, something strange happened.
The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) issued an updated official data mentioning the third confirmed case, only to take the data down a few minutes later and keeping total infected at two. MoHP, however, again issued another update later showing the total number of infected at three.
Media and medical professionals working in the front line as well as the general public were confused by this on and off updating-and-deleting of information by the government.
Doctors at the Sukraraj Hospital cordoned off the director’s room yesterday after learning of the third confirmed case through the media, warning that they would no longer continue risking their and their family members’ lives if critical information is withheld again.
“We have to treat the patients and deal with their relatives, but the hospital administration is not giving us information,” Dr Sher Bahadur Pun of the hospital was quoted as saying. “They also kept us in the dark about the second case also. Imagine how risky it is?”
It cannot be denied that the government jumped into action in the past few days in its bid to contain the spread of coronavirus in Nepal.
The government finally acknowledged that the threat of coronavirus knows no boundaries and is as real for Nepalis as to the rest of the world, imposed a lockdown, set up quarantine facilities and set up a Covid-19 Prevention Fund, halted domestic as well as international flights and sealed (some) borders.
Nepalis, who are habituated to tolerating politicians’ inaction during the worse of situations (take the 2015 earthquake and border blockade imposed by India in the immediate aftermath of the devastating tremor) were elated to see the government jump into action.
Reeling with the sudden overload of information, most Nepalis failed to see what the government was subtly doing. Here’s a brief list:
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, who work in the front line to save lives without caring for their own, have not been provided with adequate and proper safety gears as well as testing kits.
Healthcare facilities in various cities of the country are unable to send swab samples for lab test in Kathmandu after the government hastily halted all domestic flights.
Media professionals are not provided with accurate and timely information, which consequently violates the public’s Right to Information.
Imposed a lockdown, but no mention of subsidies or relief plans for daily wage workers who are going to be affected the most due to the lockdown.
Moreover, at the time of such a crisis, the Ministry of Land Management formed a suggestion committee regarding the Guthi Bill. It is important to note here that the Guthi Bill proposed earlier by the government was met with mass protests from the general public, forcing the government to roll back the proposal. Amid a global pandemic when people are panicking for their health, the government decided that it was the right time to silently push the Guthi Bill agenda.
Initially halted long-route buses but did not halt flights, airlines in turn raised their tariffs to more than double.
Shut down haat bazars (weekly markets) outside Kathmandu, but let big supermarkets like Bhatbhateni run.
Announced the lockdown in a sudden manner due to which most of the general public were left with no room to prepare for a week-long lockdown.
Abruptly sealing the borders left many Nepalis stranded in no man’s land. They were left without food and shelter for days.
Decided to prohibit all private entity from establishing a COVID-19 prevention fund and channel all funds through the government. Remember, Nepal Government received billions of dollars of funds after the 2015 earthquake from across the world. Who has the account of where all that fund went?