Enter turmeric, exit protocolPrime Minister KP Sharma Oli leads the country in flouting Covid-19 safety guidelines.
On June 18 this year, while addressing the National Assembly, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli claimed there was no need to panic, and that a regular dose of turmeric, warm water and strong willpower would do wonders against Covid-19. He also said the virus could just be sneezed away, and that there was no cause for alarm. That the chief executive would make such unfounded claims at a time when the pandemic was gaining a foothold in the country had shocked many people. Some others thought Oli was playing it down just to calm down an already panicking people but would take significant steps to nip the problem in the bud.
Almost four months after the turmeric fiasco, it's getting clearer than ever that Oli was pretty serious that afternoon. Almost two weeks after his advisers, doctor and photographer, along with dozens of other staff including security personnel at his official residence, tested positive for the coronavirus, Oli is yet to come clean on his status. The Covid-19 safety protocol prepared by the World Health Organisation and the Nepal government, and one universally acknowledged, dictates that you go into isolation when you come into contact with persons who have tested positive for the coronavirus. And yet, there is no official word on whether the prime minister underwent a test and stayed in isolation after dozens of his aides and staff tested positive. As someone leading 30 million people, the prime minister is expected to have an intelligence quotient higher than that of the average Nepali. But he refuses to exhibit it when it is needed the most.
In the past one week itself, Oli has come into close contact with at least two members of his cabinet who have tested positive—Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokhrel and Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai. Meanwhile, the public continues to be kept in the dark as to what exactly is going on at the nerve centre of Nepali politics and society. Add to that the secrecy that Oli's advisers maintained when coming out about their having tested positive, the entire crowd at Baluwatar looks like a grand conference of fiction writers.
What else explains the ridiculous announcement by three of the prime minister's advisers one fine evening that they had tested positive for the coronavirus, and then proclaiming just five days later that they had tested negative together? It doesn't take even an average IQ level to understand that the advisers had already tested positive weeks earlier, and had been withholding the information or they were too naïve to think their privilege provided them with immunity when their drivers, cooks and security personnel had tested positive weeks earlier, and they had been exposed.
No, the naysayers are not immune to the contagion. Rather, naysaying, coupled with indiscriminate socialising, is lethal. It is even unethical, as it puts those around us at a high risk of infection. The country needs its prime minister to remain healthy and free of risk, more so when he belongs to the high-risk category owing to his age, gender and medical history. It is high time Oli took the Covid-19 pandemic seriously, and observed optimum safety protocol for his own sake and for the sake of the country. The country may not take his jokes seriously but takes the position of the prime minister utterly seriously, and wants the person holding that position to take the lead in following what his government is asking the people to follow.