As government announces to make lockdown stricter, experts say, it does not offer long-term solutionPublic health experts say since the virus is here to stay, the government should focus on resuming daily life with precautions in place.
The government has announced to enforce the lockdown more strictly with the rise in cases of coronavirus infections across the country, including in Kathmandu Valley. Some experts, however, say the government’s decision will only add to the problem faced by the citizens who have been observing stay-at-home orders for nearly two months now.
Eighty-four coronavirus cases were confirmed across the country on Tuesday, prompting the Home Ministry to instruct the chief district officers, local governments and security agencies to get tougher with the lockdown measures.
Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, director of Research at Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, says the latest decision of the government to further tighten the restrictions on public mobility does not offer any long-term solution to the ongoing crisis.
“Local governments should lock only those neighbourhoods where the infection is seen, but other areas can be opened with a series of precautions in place,” Dixit told the Post.
The only solution to the current problem, Dixit says is running mass tests, quarantining suspected patients and sealing off only infected areas.
“The World Health Organization has already announced that the virus is here to stay, so we need to relax the lockdown, restart our daily lives with certain precautions like adhering to social distancing and wearing masks,” Dixit said.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his media briefing on April 20 had said more than locking down, countries must detect, test, isolate and care for every case. In his briefing he had said lockdown could help to take the heat out of the country's epidemic, but they can’t end the new coronavirus alone.
While Nepal did buy time by enforcing lockdown in the early days of the pandemic, it failed to utilise this time by ramping up tests like several other countries did.
Health experts in the country have already warned that the infection rates could only go up in the days ahead if the government fails to come up with an effective plan of action other than extending the lockdown.
Dr Mahesh Kumar Maskey, founding chair of Nepal Public Health Foundation and a public health expert, says while the cases might be increasing, we should not panic.
“More than keeping people in a state of panic, the government and health professionals should make people comfortable by only locking the infected areas,” he told the Post.
“Now we have to learn how to live with the virus, because we don’t know how long it is going to remain here. We must also take heart that many infected patients in Nepal have healed without any symptoms.
“We never knew about bird flu and swine flu before. But now we are somewhat habituated with these diseases. Just like that we need to be mentally prepared to fight Covid-19 and the government and health professionals have a vital role to play to reorient the public perception regarding coronavirus. ” Maskey added.
Just like France, England and Italy, Maskey says Nepal, too, should relax the lockdown so that the people could resume their normal lives.