House asks government to come up with action plan to deal with coronavirus threatGagan Thapa presented a proposal seeking united effort between the federal parliament, the three tiers of government and other agencies for effective preparations.
Lawmakers have asked the government to come up with a concrete action plan for the awareness and preparedness against coronavirus. That there hasn’t been an outbreak of the Covid-19 in Nepal, over three dozen members of the House of Representatives unanimously said, doesn’t mean the threat has been averted.
Expressing their views on the proposal of public importance tabled by Nepali Congress lawmaker Gangan Thapa, they said Nepal has got a golden opportunity to ready itself to deal with an outbreak. Thapa presented the proposal seeking a united effort between the federal parliament, the three tiers of government and other agencies for effective preparation while there was no outbreak.
Presenting the proposal before the Lower House, Thapa said the World Health Organisation has placed Nepal among the countries with a very high risk of an outbreak not just because the country shares border with China, the epicentre of the outbreak.
“Our lack of ability to deal with an outbreak of high intensity is another important factor,” Thapa said. “I ask the government to roll out a concrete action plan with the needed budget for preparedness.”
He said the government must ready other places like the Nepal Electricity Authority’s training centre in Kharipati, Bhaktapur, in case there is a high demand for isolation. There could be closed hotels, apartments or government buildings where infected people and those who need quarantine may be housed, he suggested.
Thapa’s proposal says the laboratories in Kathmandu can test 1,600 to 1,700 samples a day if the government ensures they have adequate kits. The government has formed the High-Level Coordination Committee to Control and Prevent Novel Coronavirus led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, but it hasn’t come up with its plan yet to contain an outbreak. “Every decision of the coordination committee must be known to the people,” he said.
Supporting Thapa’s proposal, ruling party lawmakers said the government has failed to ensure proper screening at border entry points. They also raised questions over the status of around 1,400 people, who have come to Nepal from five highly affected countries since the last week of February.
“There must be a proper screening facility at border points including with India,” said Nepal Communist Party lawmaker Bhim Rawal. “The open border with the southern neighbour is a real threat for the country.”
The entire meeting of the Lower House on Friday was dedicated to discussing the threat of coronavirus and the initiatives Nepal government should take.
The lawmakers suggested that the government boost the morale of health workers by increasing their allowances and insurance. “The threat of coronavirus is multidimensional. Along with health, it has long-term effect on tourism, economy and education,” said Sarat Singh Bhandari, a praesidium member of the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal. “The better the preparedness, the lesser will be the loss.”
Bhandari said the government should coordinate with non-government agencies to mobilise volunteers for raising awareness in every part of the country.
Responding to the concerns of lawmakers, Minister for Health Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal said the government was seriously working on preparedness and to ensure minimum loss in case the country sees an outbreak. He said the first priority of the government is to make sure no infected foreigner enters Nepal. The government is screening travellers at 37 different places to stop the contagion, he said.
Dhakal said 155 isolated hospital beds have been readied and the numbers are increasing. “All the governments, along with parliaments and assemblies, must work together to fight if there is any threat,” he said. “We need to be aware of the disease but there is no reason to panic.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 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.