Taking care of the poor is the state's responsibilityEnsuring food supply during the time of the lockdown would have done much to palliate the pain.
So far, in Nepal, five people have tested positive for the coronavirus. Amid concerns over the spread of the outbreak, the government announced a nationwide lockdown from March 24. What was initially thought to last only a week has now been extended.
On March 29, the Oli administration decided to stretch the lockdown till April 7. As the economy takes a hit, Nepal Rastra Bank announced a number of relief measures, including rescheduling of loan repayment deadlines for the businesses affected. While these are welcome measures to some extent, the road is long and arduous, and the announcement of these measures must be viewed as only the beginning. Yet again, the government seems to be forgetting the poor who do not have anyone to speak for them.
These people who are already struggling to make ends meet are affected doubly by the lockdown without any relief packages targeted specifically towards them. This is the government’s chance to show it really cares for them, too. In that, it must come up with economic stimulus for them as well. So simple are their needs that only ensuring food supply during the time of the lockdown would have done much to palliate the pain.
The novel coronavirus, which originated in China, has killed more than 33,000 people worldwide. Researchers at Imperial College London predicted that up to 2 million lives could be lost to the pandemic. Therefore, most governments have resorted to lockdown and social distancing as a way of containing the spread of the virus. Although difficult, self-quarantine has helped to curb the spread of the disease. In countries like Nepal where public healthcare is poor and private hospitals are expensive, there is not much of a choice, either. But whenever there is a crisis, be it disasters or pandemics like this, the vulnerable and marginalised people, who are often overlooked, suffer the most from the economic and social fallout.
It would be a shame if the government that came to power on an ideological platform of communism and socialism has to witness the death of its population owing to hunger. An 11-year-old boy’s death in Bihar due to starvation amid a coronavirus lockdown must be a wake-up call. The shutdown of business has upended the lives of many. And while the rich always have a way out, the poor people are often left with no choice but to curse their destiny.
Taking care of the poor and vulnerable is the state’s responsibility, and not an act of charity. It is imperative for the government to maximise aid for the poor for whom no one ever lobbies. The citizens pay taxes duly to the government. The state must use its revenue in times like these to care for the needy and vulnerable, not only for the have-it-alls.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 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. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
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.