Stay calm, be cautiousFreaking out will only make a difficult situation worse.
People from all over the world are panic buying as fears over the global Covid-19 pandemic are rising. And Nepal is no exception. Although only one case of infection has been confirmed so far, that too in January, people are hoarding masks and hand sanitisers for fear of the coronavirus. Not just that, there are long queues at grocery stores with people stocking up on essential food items like rice, cooking oil, cooking gas, salt packets and so on. This fear of scarcity has created shortages that most business owners shamelessly capitalise on. For the traders, they see this as an opportunity to create artificial shortages, shoot up prices and earn more profit.
Perhaps it is in this light that the government is planning to open a string of fair price shops in a bid to stop black marketing and price gouging for daily essential goods. This is a welcome move for profiteering during difficult times is unethical and sinister; it should be punished severely. As more people begin to freak out, it will only make a difficult situation worse.
In an attempt to come down heavily on black marketing, the government raided three warehouses in the capital last week and confiscated around 1.2 million surgical face masks, including the largest ever haul of 840,000 face masks from a godown belonging to RD Suppliers at Satungal. At places where they are available, they are sold at exorbitant prices. This issue has been highlighted again, but consumers continue to be duped in the country. And the authorities concerned have always had trouble reining in corrupt practices in trade and retail. On paper, there are lofty promises about consumer rights; but in practice, nothing exists.
In a bid to address a shortage of surgical masks amid increasing Covid-19 fears, Lalitpur Metropolitan City started manufacturing cloth masks last week in all of its 29 wards and distributing them to each household at minimal cost. Since there is a severe shortage of hand sanitisers too, the city, in collaboration with the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, began making its own hand sanitisers as well.
Authorities claim that, so far there are no coronavirus cases in the country. In late January, a Nepali man suspected to have contracted a new strain of coronavirus had tested positive. This marked the entrance of the deadly virus, which has now become a global pandemic, in the country. But the patient has recovered since then, and there has been no case of people suffering from the virus in Nepal.
Human beings are the most intelligent of all species; unfortunately, we are also quite prone to panic. And this is the case, not just in Nepal, but the world over. Given that, the government should step up its game and continue to crack down on opportunist traders. The consumers, on their part, should try to be calm. While it’s good to be cautious and prepare for the worst, being irrational about the whole situation is bound to do more harm than good.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 4, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 204 countries and infected more than 1,098,762 people with 59,172 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 2,686 with 40 deaths. While India has reported 2,547 confirmed cases with 62 deaths. Nepal has so far reported six cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.
What do you think?
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