Wear a mask, or elseThe #MaskUpNepal campaign launched by Deuba is too little and too late.
Who all need to be told today that a face mask is an essential weapon against the coronavirus? More than a year and a half after the pandemic began, no one should need a reminder. But pretty much everyone seems to need to be told this time and again. That is what Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba did on Saturday while kicking off the mask up campaign a day after the coronavirus death toll in the country crossed the 10,000 mark. It doesn't seem to be an exaggeration to say that we are in the mediaeval age when it comes to learning about and following minimum safety protocols against the deadly virus.
On Sunday, Nepal recorded 2,137 new cases and 55 new deaths, with the total cases reaching 714,877 and the death toll 10,093. After a great spike in April and May, with daily cases crossing the 9,000 mark, infections came down to the 1,000 mark in mid-June. And that is when we started to become lenient once again, causing a rise once again. Although the daily rate of infections stands at around 3,000 at the moment, experts say it can rise dramatically anytime, bringing in an even deadlier third wave, given we still have a positivity rate of 25 percent. That is, if we don't consider the current scenario as a third wave already.
The #MaskUpNepal campaign is too little, too late, but it is better than nothing, of course. Deuba's predecessor, KP Sharma Oli, during his prime ministership, caused irreparable damage by promoting pseudoscience, and falsely claiming that Nepalis had strong immune systems that would help them keep the virus at bay. But the fact of the matter is, the virus does not give concessions to anyone based on nationality. If there was any doubt that the immunity of Nepalis was no better than that of the rest of the world, and that carelessness would turn costly, the second wave of the pandemic should have been enough. Prime Minister Deuba seems to be doing slightly better than Oli on the common sense front, although he has failed to lay out a formidable plan of action against the pandemic.
Deuba's lousy start is evident in his failure to appoint a full health minister almost a month after he took over. Instead, he chose as state minister for health a businessman who is known to have multiple conflicts of interest. With Umesh Shrestha, the state minister, focusing on gaining popularity rather than actual work, there has been no strategic gain in our fight against the pandemic. With virtually everything opening up, the risk of infections is only rising each day. And without a well-coordinated effort, the prevention of new transmissions is a chimera, especially with the deadly Delta version of the ever-mutating virus. The government must immediately buckle up and wage a decisive war against the virus, especially with regard to procuring life-saving vaccines for everyone at the earliest, apart from running an effective awareness, reward and punishment campaign about following Covid-19 safety protocols.