Nepal | January 18, 2021

EDITORIAL: Find alternative

The Himalayan Times
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If the govt decides to reinforce another lockdown, the country’s economy and the education system could collapse beyond recovery

After five months of continued lockdown and four weeks of an extended prohibitory order, the government on September 8 decided to relax both types of restrictions, allowing people to travel across the country by land and air with strict health guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Population.

Earlier, international air services had resumed with the mandatory requirement of a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) report. No sooner had the government relaxed the restriction on people’s movement than new cases of Covid-19 emerged exponentially across the country. Until Thursday, more than 67,804 cases of Covid-19 infection were reported although around 49,954 people have recovered from the deadly virus, meaning that the recovery rate stands at around 72 per cent, which is close to the worldwide recovery rate. More than 436 people have already died of the disease that surfaced in China’s Wuhan city way back in December last year. This is only virus-related statistics. The colossal loss to the national economy, education, which has come to a grinding halt since March-end, and other development works is incalculable. Nobody knows how long it will take to return to normalcy. The government and its line agencies, especially the Ministry of Health and Population, lack concrete plans to keep life going on as smoothly as it used to be pre-March.

Two weeks after lifting the prohibitory order, the government is again mulling over imposing another lockdown, citing the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country, especially in the Kathmandu Valley, where more than 8,000 new cases of the virus, which is around 50 per cent of the total cases (over 17,400) across the country, have been detected. The Teku-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital is particularly under tremendous strain what with a large number of people, especially from Bihar, India and the Tarai region, queuing to have their PCR tested, as the house owners are demanding a PCR report before rooms can be rented. In Teku alone, around 1,000 people are seen waiting for their turn daily to get their PCR tested. But the hospital can only conduct PCR tests of 500 people a day. Other public hospitals should also be able to provide quick and efficient services to service seekers without any hassle and at affordable prices.

A meeting of the Incident Command System (ICS) held on Wednesday, under the convenorship of the Health Secretary, decided to recommend reinforcing another lockdown if the active Covid-19 cases cross the 25,000 mark, citing inadequacy of the current health infrastructure to cope with the rising cases of the virus. Those businesses and services that are unable to abide by the health protocols will be shut down for at least a month, which may also extend beyond Dashain. If the ICS decides to reinforce the lockdown or yet another prohibitory order, life, which has just started returning to normalcy, albeit slowly, will become difficult once again, given the uncertainty of the education sector and lack of plans to get the shattered economy back on track. The best option is to find an alternative to the next phase of a lockdown.

Know your onions

The government’s move to swing into immediate action to seize onions being sold at inflated rates by unscrupulous traders and sell them at normal prices is most welcome. The authorities have managed to seize about 12 tons of onions, which, however, is unlikely to make much of a dent in the huge demand for onions. Following a ban on onion export in mid-September by the Indian government, traders were trying to profit immensely by creating an artificial shortage. As a result, onions were being sold for as much as Rs 150 a kilo instead of just Rs 60 before the Indian government ban.

This is not the first time the Nepali market is reeling under a shortage of imported onions. Last year, a kilo of onions even sold for more than Rs 200 in the local market. Since this is likely to be a recurring phenomenon, it behoves the government and our entrepreneurs to cultivate enough onions in the country itself. What’s more, there could even be some left for export to India and Bangladesh after meeting our demand. Until then, Nepalis could stop buying onions altogether or less of them. Onions are not something our kitchen cannot do without.

A version of this article appears in print on September 25, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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