Concerts, rallies and crowded malls

Thousands of people took to the streets this week to protest prime minister Oli's decision to dissolve the Lower House. Photos: BIKRAM RAI

Even though the Covid-19 disease is still spreading and killing people and there is a new strain that is spreading around the world, people in Kathmandu seem to think the pandemic is over.

At least that is the impression one gets in Nepal's capital these days. The traffic jams and air pollution are back to 'normal' levels. Shops and malls are open and crowded.

Even though the government has not yet lifted the ban on large gatherings, night clubs in Thamel are crammed with locals, there are indoor concerts, political rallies and gatherings every day.

And not many are keeping a safe distance or wearing masks. It is as if Nepal's famous fatalism is manifesting itself, this time in collective acts of irresponsibility.

Although the number of active cases nationwide has dropped below 10,000, the recovery rate is now above 95% and the number of people in home isolation has also dropped, public health experts urge caution -- especially if the more contagious strain of virus arrives in Nepal.

More than half the 1,810 fatalities in Nepal from Covid-19 so far are in Kathmandu Valley, and there was an average of 10 deaths a day from the disease this week. Some 44% of the total confirmed cases are from the Valley.

The incidence of confirmed cases per 100,000 population in Nepal is 831, which is the second-highest after the Maldives. India is at 703, and Thailand is only 6.

This week, the Nepal government banned air passengers from or transitting UK from flying to Kathmandu.

The rock band Cobweb held an indoor Christmas concert in the LOD club in Thamel this week attended by hundreds of mainly maskless people.

Hundreds of people attended Cobweb's Christmas concert where only a rare few wore masks with the club filled to the brim.

On Friday, the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led faction of the Nepal Communist Party that is trying to oust Prime Minister K P Oli after a protracted power struggle organised a rally attended by thousands of supporters at the Mandala intersection and the Election Commission.

Although Dahal and other senior leaders wore masks, many of their party cadre jostling behind them did not.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other top leaders participated in demonstrations with masks but many of party cadre went without one.

There were also demonstrations by smaller parties as well as those by independent groups and civil society, most of the participants had forgone masks and there was no concept of physical distancing.

At Labim Mall in Lalitpur, QFX Cinema opened its multiplex on Christmas Day. Although management took all the necessary precautions, the crowds in the mall was almost back to pre-Covid levels. In fact, the queue extended to the parking lot of the mall.

Ticket queue outside QFX Cinema at Labim Mall on Friday. Photo: ALISHA SIJAPATI

In its periodic update this week, the World Health Organisation said: 'Nationally the second surge began in mid-July and peaked by end October and is currently showing an apparent downward trend which may be influenced partly by the significant decrease in the number of tests being done.'

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