Satyagraha campaign signs 12-point agreement with Health Ministry, calls off hunger strikeThe satyagraha, called by the Enough is Enough campaign, had asked for better quarantine conditions, more PCR testing and financial transparency over Covid-19 spending.
On Tuesday morning, the youth-led campaign Enough is Enough called off their hunger strike following a 12-point agreement with the health ministry on Monday evening. The campaign, that began with protests on June 9, has been ongoing in its quest to place pressure on the government to derive a better management strategy for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first round of negotiations with the Health Ministry on Thursday had proved inconclusive, leading two protesters, Iih and Pukar Bam, to continue their hunger strike from HAMS Hospital, where they were brought on the same day owing to their deteriorating health.
More attempts to come to an amicable conclusion were made last week with several rounds of meetings on Friday but the exercise proved futile.
“We do not want to succumb to the government’s pressure until we get what we have been demanding all along,” Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati, one of the organisers of the campaign, had told the Post last week.
However, until Monday, there were no further meetings between the parties. A member of the campaign told the Post that despite their efforts to communicate with the government, there was no response, despite Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli visiting the protesters on Thursday at the hospital and promising to address their demands.
“During his visit to the hospital, the prime minister asked the protesters to break their hunger strike and promised to ensure that the demands of the campaign would be met,” a campaign member told the Post on condition of anonymity. “However, despite instructing the Home Ministry to look into our demands, we were continually ignored.”
On Monday evening, the ministry and the protesters were finally able to come to an agreement. The government has agreed to the demands of the campaign, such as placing people entering the country from abroad in mandatory quarantine for five days and allowing them to self quarantine only after testing. The guidelines for self quarantines will be finalised within a week, according to the agreement.
The government has agreed to discontinue the use of rapid diagnostic tests and increase polymerase chain reaction testing to detect the presence of the coronavirus on symptomatic as well as asymptomatic carriers, including healthcare workers and essential workers, migrant returnees, and contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19, while also ensuring the protection of dignity and prevention of violence against them. The government has also agreed to make public its spending on the pandemic.
However, members of the campaign remain sceptical about the agreement being implemented.
“Despite the government signing many agreement documents with Dr. Govinda KC to end his hunger strike, they were not implemented,” Bam, a protester, told the Post over the phone from HAMS Hospital. “We do not trust the government fully.”
His statement was echoed by Iih, who thinks the government listened to their demands a bit too late.
“Had this agreement been done a month earlier, it would have brought substantial difference. Now things are worsening and it will be difficult to implement this agreement,” he told the Post.
The campaigners have called off the hunger strike for now, but the campaign is still ongoing to ensure effective implementation of the agreement, said protesters. Iih has warned of another hunger strike if demands are not met in a week.
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.