The Oli administration needs to change its attitudeThe government must try to make its activities as transparent as possible, and invest in emboldening institutions rather than individuals.
The end of the year 2076 was dominated by Covid-19. Owing to the sheer number of lives lost to the respiratory illness and infections spreading like wildfire, the last few months have been marked by fear and unease. Countries and cities across the globe are under lockdown, and nobody knows when this is going to end. The usual busy city of Kathmandu and other cities alike were quiet this time around as residents followed the government’s directions to remain indoors. There is tension in the air, and everyone feels at risk. Perhaps, never had the new year been this silent and grim.
While the overall milieu has been uncertain, so has the government’s action all through the year. When the Oli-led government came to power in 2018, it was believed to mark a new political beginning for the country, all set into motion a process leading to stability and prosperity. But over time, the public's faith in the leadership has dwindled, corruption still remains rampant, and attempts have been made to curtail freedom of expression.
Many controversial bills were tabled last year, and the government seemed hell-bent on passing them. A quartet of pending legislation—IT Management Bill, Media Council Bill, Mass Media Bill and Nepal Special Service Bill—all present the greatest danger to a democratic Nepal since the country’s days under a dictatorship. Following these bills, people have started losing faith in the government. Their elected government, whom they trusted to bring the much touted ‘prosperity’ has rather taken advantage of that faith to do as it wishes.
The government’s decisions have mainly benefited a few people in the coterie which often insulates the leadership from others. It is on the back of this blind support from the prime minister that some people in the government have indulged in corruption at all times. Be it when granting public works contracts, procuring equipment or even while settling cases. In fact, Nepal slipped two places to 124 in the Corruption Perception Index made public by Transparency International. These are just a few highlights. Examples abound.
But, on the brighter side, the administration was successful in hosting several high-ranking officials from India, the United States, and China, among others; the most notable one was definitely Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yet, while the visits themselves could be considered diplomatic successes, not much came off them. Albeit at the last moment, the government did manage to organise the South Asian Games too. And Nepal’s performance, despite many constraints, was commendable as well.
Despite its flaws, this is the government we have chosen, and it still has three more years to deliver on its promises. As we embark on a new year, perhaps, the government must introspect and take note of its mistakes. The foremost task must be for the leadership to come out of its complacency and listen to plural voices. The prime minister has time and again displayed a tendency to drown out voices that do not toe its line. This is wrong and it's antithetical to a democratic government’s functioning. Once the government realises this, most problems will be solved. Followed by this change in attitude, the government must try to make its activities as transparent as possible, and invest in emboldening institutions rather than individuals.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of June 2, 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 213 countries and infected more than 6,321,836 people with 375,657 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 198,140 with 5,608 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 72,460 confirmed cases with 1,543 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 1,811 cases with eight 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.
What do you think?
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