EDITORIAL: Coming together

It is only right that everyone should cooperate and contribute in whatever way possible to prevent the corona’s spread and stay safe

A crisis has always been an opportunity to bring the nation together, and the coronavirus threat has done just that, with the leaders cutting across all parties coming together to show concern and suggest ways to prevent a possible outbreak in Nepal. On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel called an all-party meeting at Singha Durbar, where leaders suggested the government take more proactive measures so that the country is fully prepared in the event of a viral outbreak. Such all-party meetings have been part of our tradition where all the political parties come together to overcome a disaster or emergency. As the number of countries and territories affected by the virus reached 115, the World Health Organisation for the first time on March 11 called the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic. This means the disease has spread globally, in contrast to an epidemic, which is the spread of a disease within a specific community.

Over the weeks, the government has taken certain measures to stave off a corona outbreak. Its main effort has been on not allowing the disease from entering the country through checks at the only international airport and border crossings. Creating awareness, strengthening quarantine facilities and boosting treatment facilities for those infected are the other strategies that it has adopted. All schools are  also scheduled to close from next week. Although the government has appealed for calm and guaranteed availability of goods and services, there has, however, been panic buying of food, fuel and medicines. And with India on Thursday announcing the suspension of almost all visas for a month in order to halt the spread of the virus, it could trigger even more fear-based hoarding of food and goods. Thus it is the duty of the government and the parties to allay such fears of the people.

While the advanced countries in Asia, Europe and America are grappling with the fast spreading coronavirus, surprisingly, an outbreak in Nepal has been averted as of now, although a man tested positive for the coronavirus as early as January. However, with the world in the grip of the coronavirus, it is a crisis that is in the coming. And it is only right that everyone – the government, political parties and the general public – cooperates and contributes in whatever way possible to prevent its spread and stay safe. Should there be an outbreak, do not think it will affect only the government, it affects everyone. Nepal has neither the resources nor the manpower to handle a COVID-19 outbreak seen in the neighbourhood and elsewhere globally. Thus this is no time for nurturing political differences. We must rise above rhetoric and criticism to fight a common enemy. The corona scare has done enough damage to the tourism industry, with all tourist spots near devoid of visitors. Remittances are also expected to dwindle, with tens of thousands of migrant workers from Nepal unable to depart for the labour destinations because of the virus. In such a scenario, both entrepreneurs and the public look forward to the economic package that the finance minister has promised in three days.

Museum master plan

It is good news that the government is all set to develop a master plan for the protection and preservation of the Narayanhiti Palace Museum, Keshar Mahal and Republic Memorial Park, which is located inside the museum. These are the major iconic sites, visited by thousands of people every year. A meeting of the stakeholders, initiated by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, took a decision to this effect on Tuesday. Keshar Mahal, which houses a popular library, and Narayanhiti Palace Museum, which used to be the royal residence of late king Birendra and his father Mahendra before the country was declared a republic, were badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

The government has already decided to form a board to protect and promote the museum and the memorial park, which has separate monuments of those who sacrificed their lives. After the country was declared a republic, the palace was declared a museum. The palace museum, which contains objects of archeological and cultural significance, can generate millions of rupees every year, provided it is well-managed. The money thus earned from the museum should be utilised for its preservation.