Once this ordinance comes into force, the govt will have legal teeth to procure goods and medicines through the fast track

The government is all set to introduce an ordinance to make special arrangement for the control and prevention of COVID-19 and treatment of those suffering from the respiratory contagion that has already claimed the lives of 5,000 people. Although the tide of COVID-19 infection and related deaths has been on the ebb in the past two days compared to last week, the government deemed it necessary to introduce the ordinance to effectively deal with the virus as the provisions in the Infectious Disease Act-2020 B.S., Local Administration Act-2028 B.S. and Public Procurement Act posed hurdles to acting swiftly in times of emergency. The government is going to introduce the ordinance related to the COVID-19 pandemic at a time when the budget session of the federal Parliament is just days away.

But the government ministers claim that it would be too late to take prompt action against the pandemic if the Parliament were to pass a bill to this effect. Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Khagaraj Baral said the ordinance was being introduced to procure the health materials/ equipment through the fast track and make the treatment process and prohibitory orders more effective.

He said all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic would be covered by this ordinance.

As it would take a long time to procure necessary health materials, equipment and medicines for the control and prevention of COVID-19 if the government followed the provision of the Public Procurement Act, the ordinance would duly address the problem of inordinate delay in procuring the health materials.

And the government can also supply the goods and medicines across the country immediately.

This ordinance will also authorise the central government to mobilise its means and resources up to the provincial and local levels as the central government has come to the conclusion that the sub-national governments cannot impart their duties effectively. It will also allow the government to manage all public hospitals and provide effective treatment to the infected people.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has directed the concerned ministries to immediately install oxygen plants and concentrators in hospitals and make arrangement for the supply of oxygen cylinders and anti-virus vaccines without further delay.

It may be recalled that the government had earlier introduced an ordinance to procure and administer the anti-COVID-19 vaccines produced by other countries. But the ordinance could not be tabled in the Parliament due to House obstruction from the opposition parties. Once this ordinance comes into force, the government will have legal teeth to procure equipment and medicines from other countries through the fast track. While it is important to procure health materials and medicines at the earliest possible to save the lives of the people, it is equally important to ensure that no corruption and irregularities take place at the time of their procurement.

The Prime Minister must take the lead role to ensure that the government machinery and his ministers do not engage in corruption and irregularities while procuring the goods.

Don't be stressed

With the coronavirus pandemic well into its second year, everything we do and say now revolves around the virus that has devastated both the people and the country. As the government and the people are overtly preoccupied with keeping the virus at bay, the accompanying anxiety could trigger mental health issues, which have not received the due attention. We had seen this during the monthslong lockdown enforced last year when stress, depression and even suicides were reported among the people. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, headache, fatigue and sleeplessness are some of the symptoms of mental health problems.

It is traumatic to stay long hours indoors during the prohibitory period, and to kill time, people log onto the social media to keep abreast of the latest happenings both inside and outside the country. But news is often sensational, negative and depressing, which triggers anxiety and stress. It is thus important that we sleep well, exercise regularly and, above all, have a positive frame of mind. It is also an opportunity to spend quality time with family members. For those who are suffering from deep anxiety or depression, a helpline would be most welcome.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 18, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.