LockdownSpreading misinformation is almost as harmful as spreading the virus.
Ever since the coronavirus started spreading like wildfire across the globe, many health experts have been repeating one thing—maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene. Along with this follows another equally important piece of advice—maintaining physical distance. Meaning, staying home as much as one can and limiting exposure to others to ‘flatten the curve’—an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus. The Nepal government too, albeit late, paid heed and requested people to refrain from organising gatherings of more than 25 people.
We cannot afford to take any kind of risk. To think one is invincible and that the disease attacks a section of the population, but would leave out others, would be foolish. The government has imposed a lockdown for a week since March 24. This move was long-required, so the government must be lauded for it. The lockdown seemed largely successful on Day 1. But since this kind of discipline needs to be maintained for six more days, the government could do a few things.
First, the government must be more careful than ever while disseminating information. Information should not be concealed to contain fake news as much as possible. Spreading misinformation is as harmful as the spread of the virus.
Yet, while misinformation must be contained, relevant information such as, say, the number of deaths from the coronavirus (should there be any) must not be hidden from the public. The people look up to their leaders to tell them the truth. the government must uphold this trust. This information could be disseminated through state-owned media and other social media platforms.
Given Nepal's lack of resources and wherewithal, lockdown appears to be the only best way to control the spread, which we have seen from what China and some other countries did. China put Wuhan under complete lockdown while others did not. Italy, for example, failed to grasp this. As a result, Italy is now pandemic’s new epicentre. While the Chinese were criticised initially, now it seems to be the only possible way to help contain the spread of the virus.
What’s more, it is not easy being under a lockdown. Therefore, the government must ensure the people get daily essentials during a lockdown. There are many wage earners and most cannot afford the luxury of working from home. The government must immediately dole out economic relief packages to the vulnerable populations as other countries have.
Britain, for example, rolled out a $384.45 billion worth rescue package of loan guarantees. In India, the Kerala government announced a Rs.20,000 crore stimulus package in light of the economic slowdown because of Covid-19.
The government did its part by announcing a lockdown while the people also respected the government’s decision. This has proved to be symbiotic so far. The cooperation must follow in the days to come with the government keeping the interest of the less privileged population in mind.
What do you think?
Dear reader, we’d like to hear from you. We regularly publish letters to the editor on contemporary issues or direct responses to something the Post has recently published. Please send your letters to email@example.com with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Please include your name, location, and a contact address so one of our editors can reach out to you.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 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 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five 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.