The Sound of the Sirens

“The government should have strictly monitored the Indo-Nepal borders after the endemic phase of the First Wave.”
“Absolutely Jivan dai, the government should’ve completely shut down those borders as soon as the Indian surge.”
“International and domestic flights, too. But you know what? The restrictions should have never been eased in the very first place!” 
“Not to mention, the slow vaccination pace, dai. *letting out a heavy sigh* If only the citizens were jabbed in the past two months.”

I sat there, holding a cup of hot tea while basking in the much-awaited sun that shines on the valley after days, eavesdropping on the conversation between my father and a neighbor. Confronted and clouded by a plethora of should-have-been’s, I could not seem to pinpoint one single reason for such a massive surge. Despite hearing the arguments that the old men presented and the helplessness that it stirred in me, I reminded myself that there is no point crying over spilled milk. Rather, planning for the future is more imperative than ever and the planning should be done by none other than the Government of Nepal. I noticed that my tea had gone cold. 

On the 7th of May, 2021 Nepal reported 8970 Covid cases whereas exactly a month ago on the 7th of April, only 289 cases were recorded. As of the 15th of May, more than 1000 citizens have lost their lives. The deadly second wave of Covid-19 has grappled our nation; its growth rate phenomenally & alarmingly faster than the first one. 

The response that GoN has to bring to effectiveness should constitute the Behavioural dimension and Quantitative dimension. 

The behavioral dimension includes significant reintroductions of movement restrictions to contain the virus, whenever the possibility of a third wave is seen. As for this moment, police patrolling at the local communities must be imposed, especially during the evening as people seem to roam around without any credible cause. Not to mention the good chances of the same citizens being asymptomatically affected by the virus, hence posing a threat to the people around them. Covid appropriate behavior, as advertised by the World Health Organization, specifically the post-lockdown phase, is of utmost importance.

On the other hand, the quantitative dimension includes direct efforts from our government’s side. It includes approving more internationally-manufactured vaccines while the country faces lockdown and augmenting the vaccine administration centers once the restrictions are eased. Sufficient aid in the form of vaccines, equipment, oxygen plants, and cylinders should be procured immediately from different nations. It is also a strong suggestion to relax the eligibility for qualifying for the doses. If possible, legally regulated open market access of vaccines should be considered. This will enable the already exhausted, stretched-to-the-breaking-point healthcare system to cope. 

Similarly, this goes without saying, but since the disease is imported and transmittable, all land-based entry points should be closed until our neighbor attains normalcy. International flights can be opened but only for chartered ones, with the provisions of submitting the latest -ve PCR report while the domestic flights are to be halted on all counts, even during the endemic phase of this wave. Also, the annunciation of extending the time of the “14-day quarantine” rule might help break the chain of infections. 

The one thing that can stop a surge in its tracks is a complete and hard lockdown but the thing about a hard lockdown is that they cannot be for extended durations. Focused short-duration lockdowns should be imposed in areas where the healthcare system poses even the slightest chance of feeling overwhelmed.

Another reason why we lagged can be due to Vaccine Hesitancy. I strongly believe that most Nepalese purposefully missed their chance to get vaccinated in the last two months. Lack of respect and understanding of Science in the Nepali community comes as no surprise and hence the government should take advantage of this lockdown to try and eradicate the fear of vaccination by replacing the myths with statistics and facts. Not only this, but the government should prioritize marginalized and defenseless populations as they have been most affected by this mutant through plausible administration of the three tiers; federal, provincial, and local. Covid-aid or Covid-relief packages should be distributed to those whose livelihoods were affected due to the pandemic. 

For a resource-limited country like ours, sure, the government was a day and a dollar short but now it’s time for them to stop filibustering and to face the music. For now, the best vaccine against this variant of  Covid-19, which is indiscriminate of fitness or age, is a strictly abided lockdown. The implementation and obedience of the aforementioned suggestions for the GoN will determine whether we get better off the second wave or the second wave gets the better of us.