Kathmandu allows cinemas, nightclubs to reopenHealth experts warn of consequences after authorities decided to lift restrictions permitting most social and economic activities.
Kathmandu District Administration Office on Friday decided to allow cinema halls, dance, and nightclubs to operate with a maximum of 50 percent occupancy.
A day after the authorities decided to lift most of the prohibitory orders that were in place in Kathmandu Valley as a measure against Covid-19, Kathmandu district administration decided to reopen nighttime businesses with some conditions.
According to the decision, Dohori and dance restaurants can operate till 12pm and nightclubs till 2am. They must also follow the 50 percent occupancy limit.
“The new decision has come into effect from Friday itself,” Kali Prasad Parajuli, chief district officer of Kathmandu, said. “With this decision, we sought a middle ground between preventing further spread of Covid-19 and protection of livelihoods.”
A week ago, some representatives of nighttime businesses had submitted keys to their businesses to the Tourism Ministry, Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre and District Administration Office, arguing they could no longer run their businesses amid continued lockdown.
“We returned their keys on Thursday and took decisions to allow them to operate their businesses with maximum 50 percent attendance of people by following the health protocols,” said Kalpana Ghimire Nepal, assistant chief district officer of Kathmandu.
According to her, earlier, the Tourism Ministry had also requested the District Administration Office to address their concerns. She said that a monitoring committee headed by assistant chief district officer and represented by Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, institutions representing the cinema producers, artists and restaurants and clubs has also been formed.
The sudden lifting of restrictions for the operation of nighttime businesses has come just two weeks after the government issued circulars in the name of District Administration Offices to implement ‘smart lockdown’.
The government earlier had ordered the local administration to implement the Working Procedure on Smart Lockdown starting from August 17 but hardly any local administration has implemented such measures.
The working procedure has suggested imposing hard, mixed, soft, or minimal lockdown based on risk assessment in a particular area of a district. The areas should be categorised as red, amber, yellow, or green zones as per the degree of risk.
If there is a severe risk of transmission and the virus is spreading rapidly, stringent measures should be taken, according to the procedure. A soft lockdown should be imposed in the case of moderate transmission and risk of transmission while enforcing preventive measures.
On Friday, Nepal’s Covid-19 positivity rate stood at 17.96 percent, according to the Health Ministry. The country also reported 1,756 new Covid-19 cases with 23 deaths.
Parajuli said that lockdown was lifted to balance the health risk and livelihood, although certain restrictions were still required as per the smart lockdown guidelines.
Meanwhile, health experts say that the sudden lifting of all restrictions might lead to a surge in infections.
“The most infectious Delta variant of coronavirus is still circulating in our community and the majority of the population is still unvaccinated. So there is an obvious risk of spreading the virus again along with little to no restrictions,” Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, told the Post.
“Reported infections per day are more than 1,000 but still don’t know how many people are getting infected in reality. During the first wave, the cases had gone below 100 when the situation had started to normalise.”
According to the ministry, 5.47 million individuals have received the first jab of the vaccine while 4.79 million people have received full doses as of Friday.
“Still a lot of people are yet to be vaccinated and those unvaccinated are at high risk,” said Dr Pun.
Even though the government promised to enhance monitoring to control behaviour against health protocol, Dr Pun expressed doubt if that would happen. “The recent experiences show monitoring of violation of health protocols has not been effective,” he said.