Editorial: Nationwide lockdown

The nationwide lockdown has restricted the movement of the people, allowing them to venture out only for urgent matters

The government is taking no chances and has enforced a virus-lockdown in the country from early Tuesday morning as a second case of the coronavirus was confirmed in a girl who had returned home from France last week. The lockdown has been imposed for a week till March-end to prevent any possible outbreak of the disease that has claimed more than 16,000 deaths worldwide. The full lockdown comes just a day after a partial lockdown went into force on Monday, with an outbreak here seemingly closer than earlier envisaged. The full lockdown has restricted the movement of the people, allowing them to venture out only for urgent matters, such as medical treatment and purchase of food. As a result, all vehicular movements – both public and private – came to a standstill Tuesday. All domestic flights were also grounded. Other than those working in the essential sectors, and in industries producing medicines and health equipment and food, drinking water and milk, everyone is staying home.

It is difficult for people to be confined to one place for days. But we must cooperate with the government and abide by the rules and regulations it has set to prevent an outbreak. In countries of Europe and elsewhere, it all began with a handful of cases. But before they had time to react, the virus had overwhelmed them and created a pandemic. Today the coronavirus COVID-19 has affected 195 countries and territories around the world, with 382,000 cases, which seem to be doubling every few days. So the lockdown is both timely and justified, especially given that India, our southern neighbour, has recorded 10 deaths and more than 511 corona cases.

safe is for both the government and the people to take the government instructions seriously. For days, the media had been writing about the laxity seen at the Tribhuvan International Airport in checking incoming passengers. Travellers neither submitted the public health declaration form, which gives the travel and medical history of the passenger, at the health desk nor did they fill the self-quarantine agreement form, which obliges them to stay in self-quarantine or home isolation for two weeks. The girl student who returned from France on March 17 should have gone into home isolation immediately, but did so only days later on learning that she might have carried the virus to Nepal. Although a notice has been issued, it is going to be a horrendous task trying to locate the 204 other passengers who were with her on the Doha-Kathmandu flight from Qatar. Since many of them might have left for their homes outside the capital, carrying out the needed tests is going to be really difficult. The concerned authorities then should have shown the same rigidity exhibited by the police on Tuesday, which literally locked the people in their areas. While most people stayed at home, there were, however, others who were working to provide the essential services to the commoners. We must salute the health personnel, in particular the doctors, nurses and health workers, who are working to stop the virus even while putting their health at great risk. The government must do all it can to protect their health.

Relief to public

The government has taken a number of relief measures for the public in the wake of the coronavirus that has hit the world hard since last December. After the Office of the Attorney General decided to defer minor offences for some time, now it is Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) that has also given some sort of relief to the consumers. As the people have been told to stay home for at least one week, the state-owned power utility has decided not to impose any fine on the customers who are unable to pay their electricity bill on time. The consumers can pay the electricity bill either online or later.

Unveiling the programme, Minister of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Barshman Pun said the government would not impose any fine for not paying the bill on time. This step was taken to prevent a large number of people from gathering at a small space for hours. Although the NEA has introduced online facility to pay the electricity bill, many customers still prefer to foot the bill by visiting the cash counters of the NEA offices. But it is high time the customers changed their habit and switch to online payment, which is easier and also saves a lot of time.