More restrictions on the people's movement will only inflict irreparable losses to the national economy and the people

The prohibitory orders, which have been in place since April 29, have been extended for seven more days till June 21, with some relaxations in select sectors, as the daily cases of COVID-19-related infections and deaths have been declining in the capital and elsewhere for the last few days. A meeting of the three Chief District Officers (CDOs) of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur has decided to extend the orders for one more week by relaxing some restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles carrying essential goods, including those ferrying construction materials. From Tuesday onwards, groceries, departmental stores, stationery shops, LPG outlets and shops selling essential products, including drinking water, vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products, can operate till 11am against 9am previously. The CDOs will facilitate agriculture activities in their districts with special passes to the farmers.

Vehicles carrying construction materials can ply the street from 4pm to 4am; hardware shops can operate after 4pm; restaurant can resume takeaway service until 7pm and vehicular workshops can operate from 4pm to 9pm. But all of them must follow the health protocols. Banks and financial institutions will also be allowed to operate at full capacity with passes to be issued by the CDOs for the employees to commute. All educational institutes, however, will remain shut, and they are required to continue with distance learning, or online classes.

The government decided to relax the restrictive orders following the decline in infections and deaths related to COVID in the recent weeks. It became possible to contain the spread of COVID-19 due to the strict restrictions on the movement of the people and vehicles in the urban centres, which have been hit hard by the second wave of the virus since early March. On Sunday, health authorities diagnosed 1,694 new cases of COVID-19 across the country, which is the lowest intraday COVID cases since April 19, when 1,227 cases were recorded in a single day. In spite of the declining rate of COVID-19 infections, the death rate – 46 people died of it in the past 24 hours – is still high at 1.6 per cent. The death rate can be lessened to a desired level if the government provides medical equipment and oxygen to all the health facilities where they are needed the most.

Experiences from our own and other countries have taught us that an indefinite lockdown is not a lasting solution to contain the virus. We need to speed up the immunisation drive to cover the entire eligible population. As the G7 meeting held in the United Kingdom has vowed to contribute 1 billion vaccine doses – although health experts say the amount is too little to cope with the situation – to poor countries through the UN's COVAX programme or bilateral deals, Nepal should try its best to get the needed vaccines at the earliest possible. The government should use its diplomatic missions abroad to obtain the required quantity of the vaccines either through COVAX, donation from friendly countries or procurement at the government-to-government level.

More restrictions on the people's movement will only inflict irreparable losses to the economy and cause unbearable hardships to low-income people.

Another acid attack

In yet another acid attack in the country, a husband threw acid on his wife during a quarrel in Rautahat Saturday evening. The woman, who is undergoing treatment in a hospital, has suffered burns on the left hand, stomach and other body parts. According to her, following a domestic dispute over property, the husband had gone out and brought a bottle of acid, which he threw indiscriminately at her, burning 18 per cent of her body.

The country has seen quite a few acid attacks in recent years, with at least 22 people, including four men, having suffered as a result since 2016, according to police. Many more incidents could have gone unreported. In most cases, boys have attacked girls after their overtures of love were spurned by the latter.

Following an uproar among the people, the government has introduced strict laws that could sentence perpetrators of acid attacks to 20 years in jail and a fine of Rs 10 million, while regulating the sale and use of acids and other harmful chemicals. However, acids continue to be freely available in the market, as the Rautahat incident has demonstrated. Only strict execution of the law will deter people from involving in the heinous crime.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.