Allowing foreigners to stay in hotels without first having them show health certificates is a dereliction of duty on their part
Belated though, the government swung into action by declaring a 15-point directive to be adhered to by the public with a view to containing the looming spread of the coronavirus in the country. The government decision to put a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people at religious places and other areas, the suspension of the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) that was scheduled to be held yesterday and other university exams is a welcome move in view of the threat posed by the virus. A meeting of the high-level coordination committee for the prevention and control of the virus on Wednesday decided to shut down cinema halls, cultural centres, stadiums, gyms, health clubs, recreational centres and dance bars until April 30. The government has said the SEE and university exams would be re-scheduled without affecting the yearly academic calendars. The decision taken by the high-level panel will be monitored and implemented by the concerned ministries, departments and the security personnel. The public vehicle operators will not be allowed to carry more passengers than their seating capacity, and they are required to disinfect them before plying the routes. The people are also requested to stay home unless there is a real need. The aim of this decision is to maintain ‘social distancing’ as said by the WHO.
In the drastic measures to control the virus, the government has imposed a ban on travellers originating or in transit from all European, West Asian and the Gulf countries, Malaysia, South Korea, Turkey and Japan from March 20 till April 30. It means even Nepali nationals, whose visas have expired or need to return home for one reason or the other, will also be barred from entering the country till then. However, Nepali nationals should have been allowed to return home so that they could reunite with their families on condition that they will stay in self-isolation.
Although the government has set up health desks at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), many passengers, including foreigners, have been found giving a slip to the medical staffers, who have not lived up to the expectation. Foreigners have been found not submitting the prescribed health certificate to be issued by their concerned health bodies at the TIA. Also, it is the duty of all the hotels to demand health certificates from their guests as a proof that they are medically fit for staying in their facilities. Some of the tourists, mainly from the virus-infected European countries, are learnt to have already gone trekking after staying a few days in the capital’s hotels. This is a dereliction of the duty on the part of the hotels and the TIA staffers, on whom punitive action should be taken for breaching the rules imposed for the larger interest of the public in this time of a global health crisis. The government has also taken some time to take a decision on suspending the SEE at the eleventh hour, just one day before the exams. Had this decision been taken much earlier, it would have removed a lot of anxiety off the students, who were preparing for the exams, and their parents. Now, it is the duty of the government to create a conducive environment to see that the SEE and university examinees can sit for the exams without fear of the virus.
Support to farmers
Nepal is an agricultural country, but it imports billions of rupees worth of agricultural produce, from rice and corn to meat and vegetables, annually. This has happened because there is not much incentive for the youths to take up agriculture due to the poor returns in comparison to the toil one puts in it. Hence, the villages have been emptied of its youth force, who have deserted for the Gulf countries and Malaysia to do menial jobs instead.
But over the years, many returning migrant workers are putting their money and skills learnt into small modern farms to grow food and raise animals, and with good profit. Now the new agriculture minister has just introduced five policies that, if implemented well, could help the country be self-sufficient in food. They include grants on inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and machinery; making available technicians; easy access to low interest loans to the farmers; crop and livestock insurance; and guarantee of profit in agro-business by setting the minimum support price for all products. And the government’s decision to purchase the farmers’ produce should they be unable to get the minimum price in the market is most welcome.
A version of this article appears in print on March 20, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.