Shape up the lockdown

Going through the motions to quarantine people haphazardly will not prevent an outbreak


China and India, it is reported, are willing to provide medical equipment and medicine to Nepal. Surely, this isn’t news. Nepal’s giant neighbours would have responded positively to such a request two months ago, when it was already obvious that Nepal lacked masks, PPEs, and Covid-19 tests to prevent an outbreak. The reason this was headline-worthy was that the inquiry had come from the Nepal Army.

Given the utter failure of the government to react to the shortage of equipment and test kits in a timely manner, and to get the big things right means the smaller ways in which we all react to the threat are going to take on a larger dimension.

Nepal must hope for the best, prepare for the worst, Buddha Basnyat and Sudeep Adhikari

Yet what I see in my neighbourhood, and in the media, does not give confidence. The neighbourhood market had white circles on the pavement to indicate correct physical distancing, but they have faded away. Whether people observe proper spacing seems dependent more on their attraction to a certain product than any rule. When a pick-up truck loaded with huge, round lauka pulls up a crowd starts to gather. A passing policeman does not intervene.

It is positive that most people in Kathmandu are wearing face masks, though some are too small to cover both mouth and nose, making them useless. Worryingly, one seller who is the hub of activity in a shop — weighing and bagging produce, taking money and making change — does not even bother to wear one.

Ke garne attitude kills people, Laxmi Basnet

Walking home, I can empathise with children released for a few hours from lockdown out on their street playing cricket (although they shouldn’t be). But as I gaze aimlessly from a first-floor balcony one long afternoon, I am annoyed to see a group of four neighbours across the street sitting in a circle playing cards.

Maybe it is time local leaders followed the example of mayors in Italy who amused people around the world when they took to social media — and in some cases to the streets — to excoriate their citizens who were not obeying the lockdown. And there was the Chinese official who at a press conference lambasted Italian officials for not keeping people at home. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

Philanthropy in the time of pandemic, Shristi Karki 

There is a story from Canada of a 30-year-old gym owner and long-distance cyclist who met a friend who had recovered from the coronavirus. They chatted, being extra careful to maintain distance, yet the super-fit cyclist still fell sick, at one feverish stage passing out alone in his apartment. Recovering now, he was still sleeping 11-12 hours per night as his shattered body rejuvenated itself.

That is the scenario we should be preparing for: an illness so devastating that it can knock out the toughest among us. Yet, it appears that subconsciously many Nepalis, officials included, have internalised the notion that ‘it is not going to happen here’. Or perhaps the relaxed approach results from lockdown fatigue after more than three weeks of having our movements curtailed, and it has been extended till 27 April.

Being zen about Zoom, Tashi T Sherpa

This is not to diminish the efforts of health workers and other frontline personnel who put themselves at heightened risk daily with scant support to take care of patients. Abiding by the lockdown is extremely difficult for many people, including daily wage earners and suddenly unemployed migrants. In fact, governments need to do more to ensure that their precarious situations do not worsen.

Going through the motions to prevent an outbreak is useless: we will not get a second chance to prevent an epidemic that could ravage the country. Now is when leaders need to step up and take charge to ensure that people are strictly adhering to the rules. I am not confident they will, given reports of border points being opened post-lockdown to allow people to return home and of quarantine centres where patients are sharing beds and cigarettes, but it is far past the time to get serious.

Marty Logan