The business community and educational institutes have already asked the government not to re-impose a lockdown

Although the government has not taken any decision to impose yet another lockdown, the possibility of it cannot be ruled out should the number of coronavirus cases keep surging. However, the government has decided to strictly implement the health protocols, prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Population, first. A meeting of the COV- ID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC), held under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel on Saturday, decided to first monitor whether or not the health protocols were being followed and then only take another decision. Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Khagaraj Baral, who is also the coordinator of the CCMC Secretariat, said the government might have to re-impose a lockdown if coronavirus cases spiralled out of control. The CCMC has, therefore, appealed to all to stay alert, citing the possibility of a surge in the second wave of COVID-19 – even the new variant of the virus – in the country as neighbouring India has witnessed a sudden spike in the cases in several states. The CCMC has also decided to make the district-level CCMCs more active to deal with any eventuality.

The district-level CCMCs had remained inactive with the slowing down of COVID-19 cases, and some of them have even closed down the disease-related hospitals. The government has authorised the concerned district administrations to impose a lockdown in close coordination with the local levels should the necessity arise. For now, the CCMC has decided to strengthen all the health desks by increasing the antigen tests at all the entry points, send COVID-19 symptomatic persons to hospitals and keep others with asymptomatic cases in quarantines.

The CCMC has authorised the Ministry of Education to take a decision on whether or not to close down the educational institutes.

The ministry will hold a meeting with the stakeholders on Monday on this issue. However, the business community and educational institutes have already asked the government not to impose any lockdown as it has already caused huge economic and academic losses in the last one year. As the government has not been able to procure adequate quantities of anti-virus vaccines due to the bans imposed by many vaccine-producing countries, the only way to stay safe from infections is to follow the health protocols, which, among others, include face-masking, hand-washing and maintaining social distancing. However, the general people have been found ignoring the protocols. A glaring example of the health protocols' defiance was seen in Bhaktapur on Saturday, where thousands of people had thronged to observe Biska Jatra. Most of them were not wearing face-masks or maintaining physical distance.

Should such a large number of people gather at a small place and ignore the health protocols, there is every chance of the virus spreading in the community.

Moreover, the wedding season will be starting from next week. What if the COVID-19 spreads rapidly due to the gathering of a large number of people? So, the only way to stay safe from the virus is to avoid large gatherings and follow the health protocols.

Child marriage

Despite all the government efforts and commitments made to curb child marriage, it shows no signs of abating. It is rampant in communities both in the Tarai and the hills. Tradition apart, there are other factors fueling child marriage in the villages of Nepal. Lack of awareness among the parents and abject poverty, where a daughter is seen as a burden, have been cited as reasons for child marriage time and again. But in a village of 400 families in Bajura, poverty apart, it is lack of a higher secondary school and job opportunities that make child marriage the next best thing to do. In the village, Musikot, many boys and girls are already married by the age of 15 and become parents by the time they are 20. Much like the chhaupadi system, the NGOs have failed to do anything to improve on the situation.

For both the government and the policymakers, it might be prudent to look into the correlation between child marriage and education – a good one, that is, – beyond class 10. Setting up vocational and technical schools in the rural municipalities might also go a long way in discouraging child marriage.

Just making laws banning child marriage isn't going to solve the problem.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.