The rate at which people are dying every day should not be taken lightly as new variants of the virus are more fatal than the old one

Finally, the government has decided to impose prohibitory orders in nine most COVID-19-affected districts, including the Kathmandu Valley, to break the chain of the coronavirus and bring it under control. The prohibitory orders, simultaneously issued by the three District Administration Offices of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, will come into force from Thursday. Other districts, mostly in the Tarai regions, where the daily cases of COVID-19 infection have crossed from 200 to 500 have also been told to take restrictive measures. Although the three districts of the Kathmandu Valley have imposed the prohibitory orders initially for one week, a cabinet meeting held on Monday decided to extend them at least for two weeks. Barring the most essential services, all educational institutes and all private and public vehicles will stay closed during that period. Wedding ceremonies, bratabandhas and other social events have also been limited to 15 people, and, such gatherings can only be held after taking permission from the concerned authorities. Groceries can sell foodstuffs till 10 am and from 5 pm to 7 pm. Those who enter the Valley are mandatorily required to stay in quarantine or in self-home isolation as per the existing rules. All these restrictive measures were taken as per the recommendations of the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC).

The government did not have any option other than to impose the prohibitory orders after cases of the coronavirus surged exponentially following the second wave of the virus in many Indian states, from where a large number of Nepali workers started returning home for fear of the disease.

Most of the hospitals, health posts, quarantine and isolation centres built there last year have been occupied beyond their carrying capacity, forcing the health officials to turn away most of the patients for lack of bed and oxygen. At the same time, the Health Ministry has also asked those factories that use oxygen for their operation or production to halt them for the time being, citing an acute shortage of oxygen cylinders in the hospitals.

Restricting the people's movements will certainly have an adverse impact on their life and economy, which has already suffered beyond recovery due to the months-long lockdown last year. But the restriction on people's movement can help break the chain of the virus from spreading it quickly in communities.

The rate at which people are dying every day for the last couple of weeks should not be taken lightly as the new variants of the virus have proved to be more fatal than the old one. As it will take many more months to vaccinate the entire population, the only way to stay safe is to avoid venturing out of homes and to follow the prescribed health protocols. If we, the citizens, abide by the health protocols, we can defeat it within a couple of weeks. Otherwise, we will also face the same situation that India has been facing these days due to the people's complacency.

Learning lessons from the last year's chaotic situation, the government must provide some relief assistance especially to daily wage earners. And, those who want to return home from the Valley should also utilise the two days' time offered by the government.

Missing women

Let's face the reality that Nepal has failed to stop trafficking of adolescent girls and women, especially to India. Despite the many interventions along the Indo-Nepal border by non-governmental organisations, that thousands of girls and women should go missing year after year points to the magnitude of the problem. While there is no doubt that there is a well-organised racket operating in trafficking women across the border with promises of well-paying jobs, it is also a fact that many girls end up in Indian brothels through their close relatives. This means a woman trafficker could be present in the very midst of the community.

Over the decades, Maiti Nepal has been involved in rescuing dozens of girls and women from the border areas year after year. But with 966 complaints of missing women being registered in Morang district alone, it is evident that one organisation or two cannot stop the trafficking of girls to India or elsewhere.

Giving girls a good education, creating awareness and regulating the porous border could help bring down girl trafficking. Women trafficking is a lucrative business, worth billions of dollars worldwide, and only severe punishment will act as a deterrent.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 28, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.