If the people do not follow the safety rules, the government alone cannot bring the second wave of the virus under control

The rate of coronavirus infections, including those of the new variant, has been rising day-by-day since the last few weeks across the country, thanks largely to the people's utter negligence in using facemasks, hand washing and maintaining social distancing.

Despite the government's humble and repeated requests to the public to abide by the health protocols to keep the virus at bay, the people are simply ignoring them, thinking that COVID-19 cases have been declining, and everyday life has returned to normalcy. Jatras (cultural festivals), wedding ceremonies and other political gatherings being held in the urban centres all over the country has further led to a spike of the deadly virus at the community level, and it has also severely affected the young population, not seen when it struck the country last year.

People travelling in jam-packed public buses do not wear face-masks. Shortly after the government issued a warning against any gathering of more than 25 people in public places some three days ago, leaders and cadres of various political parties were seen violating the safety rules and thronging city halls.

How can the government control the virus if the people themselves violate the rules imposed for their own safety? A case in point is the chariot procession of Seto Machhindranath in the capital the other day, when thousands of devotees took part in pulling the chariot in the heart of the city, defying the government order banning gatherings of more than 25 people. Last year, the jatra was cancelled and was limited to a formal offering, fearing the spread of the coronavirus.

Although the organisers claimed to have maintained social distancing and worn facemasks during the chariot procession, the gathering of such a large number of people proved it to be untrue.

A similar situation was seen in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, where thousands of people had gathered during the nineday-long Biska Jatra that concluded last week.

As tens of thousands of people are infected every day in neighbouring India, from where a large number of Nepali workers are returning home through the porous borders every hour, the situation in Nepal might turn from bad to worse if we, the general people, do not follow the prescribed health protocols.

Health authorities have been diagnosing more than 1,000 new COVID cases everyday, filling up all the isolation centres and hospitals beyond their usual capacity. The Health Ministry has even warned that up to 11,000 people will be infected daily by the end of May should the infection rate remain unchanged, and the number of infections might reach up to 600,000 by July if the people violate the safety rules.

Until one month ago, the gap between infections and recovery stood at around 3,000. Now this rate has sharply widened by more than 11,500 within three weeks, and the death rate has also increased by 18 per cent. All these statistics prove that the second wave of the coronavirus has become very serious, and it has also proved that the government alone cannot bring it under control unless the public itself cooperates with each other by following the health protocols. Taking precautionary measures are more important than seeking a cure.

Expensive chicken

It's absurd why chicken should be so expensive in this country. Time and again, the consumers have been at the mercy of the poultry businesses, who raise the price arbitrarily under one pretext or the other. Chicken prices have gone up in the market recently, hitting a record price of Rs 430 a kilo, citing lack of production. And prices are expected to touch Rs 500 in the days ahead as supply is unable to meet the demand. In the wake of the sudden surge in chicken price, the government has begun market monitoring to know the cause, but how this will help bring down the price is anyone's guess.

Have chicken prices gone up because the wedding season is about to start? But with the partial lockdown in place since Monday, there will not be big parties this time as in the past. So why the sudden surge in demand? Chicken is the least expensive food in any country, not a luxury, and the government must keep it that way. If the poultry producers can't meet the demand, then, as with all other foodstuffs, the consumers might be better off with one more imported item. Or, may be the government should open up the poultry business to foreign investment, which might help bring down its price.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 22, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.