Even if the public vehicles have been allowed to operate on an odd-even basis, it is advised to avoid unnecessary travel

The government is still undecided on fully lifting the prohibitory orders that are in place since April 29, although cases of infection and deaths related to COVID-19 are gradually declining with each passing day. Although the government has allowed the most essential sectors, such as groceries, vegetable and fruit markets, shopping malls and construction activities, to open with some relaxations, it is not sure when things will return to normalcy so that people can engage in full-fledged economic activities. However, a meeting of the three Chief District Officers (CDOs) of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur held on Monday decided to allow public transport to resume its services on the basis of the odd-even system from today, which allows vehicles to carry only half the number of passengers of their total seating capacity.

The government was under pressure from the public transport operators to allow them to run public transport after it let domestic air services to resume from July 1 with limited flights. Vehicles having more than 25-seat capacity will be allowed to ply the streets from 6 am till 7 pm. The three CDOs of the Valley have also allowed the groceries to open from 6 am to 6 pm by maintaining the health protocols prescribed by the government.

However, the prohibitory orders have been extended for one more week till July 7. Private vehicles have already been allowed to operate on an oddeven basis since last week. All educational institutions, hotels, restaurants and sporting activities have, however, been put on hold until further notification. Against this backdrop, all the universities, including Tribhuvan University, have decided to conclude their yearly and semester exams before the start of the Dashain festival to make up for the loss of their academic calendar. Due to the strict measures taken since April 29, the number of active COVID-19 cases has dropped to around 40,000 as of Sunday from the previous 100,000, which was the highest since April. Still, there are 25 districts with more than 500 active cases each and 30 districts with more than 200 cases each, with the rate of infection standing at 19.1 per cent. Earlier, the second week of May saw the infection rate peak at more than 39 per cent.

As the public transport has been allowed to operate by adhering to the health protocols, there are fears that the public vehicles operators and passengers may not follow the prescribed rules. The government will then have no option other than to re-impose the prohibitory orders should there be a surge in coronavirus cases following the resumption of public transport service. Therefore, the bus operators and passengers must strictly follow the health protocols without fail. It made little sense to partially reopen the markets without letting the public vehicles ply the streets. Health officials have warned of a third wave caused by the new variant of the virus, called Delta, which is said to be more fatal than the second wave of COVID-19. So, all are advised to follow the preventive measures of maintaining social distancing, hand-washing and wearing face masks while venturing out of the home. People are also advised to avoid unnecessary travel in public vehicles unless it is urgent and to skip crowded places.

Woes of dairy farmers

Nepal has achieved self-sufficiency in milk production, and the credit must go to the small farmers who have invested heavily in raising highbreed cows and buffaloes. But they will be encouraged to produce more milk in the days ahead only if the farmers are kept happy, that is, if they can sell their produce at a good price. But, as things stand today, there is no guarantee that they will be able to sell all of the milk produced or if they will get a good price. The farmers are not very organised and are unable to bargain for a fair price for their milk. This puts them at the mercy of the middlemen and the dairy industries, who force them to sell milk at unreasonably low prices under one pretext of the other.

The prohibitory order currently being enforced in the country has only added to their woes, as is evident in Chitwan, which is among the highest producers of milk in the country. The local cooperatives, of which there are 110, have stopped collecting milk from the farmers after the dairy industries stopped placing orders. Since the farmers face uncertainty time and again, the cooperatives would do better to pool their resources to set up small dairy plants of their own.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 29 2021, of The Himalayan Times.