As the govt gradually eases the restrictions, it should speed up the vaccination drive to cover the eligible population

With this year's monsoon just a few days away from now, the Home Ministry is mulling gradually relaxing the prohibitory orders, imposed in several districts of the country since April 29 to break the chain of the second wave of the coronavirus, which has so far claimed the lives of 7,990 people. Although the rate of COVID-19 infection seems to have declined and the recovery rate increased by more than 84 per cent since last week, the death rate appears to have stagnated at around 100 a day. Unless there is a significant drop in the number of deaths, we cannot say for sure that the pandemic is in a declining phase and safe to reopen the economic activities that have come to a standstill since April. Considering the hardships faced by the public due to the closure of economic activities for more than a month, the Home Ministry has started talks with various ministries and representatives of all the 77 districts about the possibility of relaxing the prolonged lockdown phase-wise, making sure that the situation remains under control. The ministry has a plan to allow the movement of people related to the agriculture sector as the monsoon is fast approaching, and the entire nation will be engaging in paddy plantation, which is the country's major crop which makes up around 20 per cent of the total agricultural produce.

Apart from this, the ministry is also mulling over reopening the construction and other informal sectors, allowing the daily wage earners to work for their survival. It is the agriculture and construction sectors that absorb most of the daily wage earners and unskilled labourers.

However, the main challenge for the government's law-enforcing agencies is to see to it that the people engaged in agriculture and construction sectors abide by the health protocols prescribed by the government. Although the infection rate has started declining in the urban areas, it has jumped in the rural parts of the country, where health services are not easily available and most of the people seem to be reluctant to have a health check-up should they suffer from severe fever and cough. However, the CDOs in all districts have been given the power to re-impose a lockdown in their districts should the infection rate continue to grow.

As Nepal and India share a long open border, what happens in India has a direct impact in Nepal as well.

India began gradual easing of restrictions from Monday after infections fell to a two-month low. Nepali migrant workers from the far-west have also started travelling to India following the easing of the restrictions and dropping of the infection rate recently.

However, we cannot be complacent simply because the corona infection rate has started declining. It could be because of a low rate of PCR and antigen tests conducted across the country. While the government can gradually ease the restrictions of people's movement, considering the declining rate of COVID-19 infection, it should also speed up the vaccination drive to cover a large section of the population.

Restricting the people's movement indefinitely is not a lasting solution to the problem. Launching a massive vaccination drive is its ultimate solution as has been done by other countries.

Don't misuse

The increasing number of cybercrimes in the country is a matter of serious concern, posing a great challenge to the law enforcing agencies in tackling them. The social media has been used to dupe people, defame them, post hate messages and violate citizens' privacy, among others. Today nearly everyone has a mobile, and people spend a good deal of their time browsing the content on the social media, making it easy to spread unwarranted messages, many a time with explicit content, quickly. Although there are laws to deal with cybercrimes, they have not been very effective in curbing them.

The Nepal Police or other law enforcing agencies can only help if the victims report such crimes immediately.

However, according to the police, the victims of cyber bullying would rather prefer to deactivate their social sites or stay away from such platforms or simply live with the social stigma. In a way, the social media users are encouraging trolling by sharing offensive and lewd content that are posted. Thus, a single post can reach hundreds or even thousands of people in no time without having to be verified. As responsible citizens, let's report such content to the police immediately.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 9, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.