New virus wave hits political meetings, gatheringsCabinet has not been able to meet since January 5. With their leaders in isolation, political parties have postponed scheduled events.
Rising coronavirus cases across the country have affected political activities and high-profile meetings including Cabinet meetings and other planned events.
In response to the ongoing upsurge in infections, the government and local administrations have started imposing a series of restrictions across the country including in the Capital, Kathmandu making it difficult to organize large gatherings.
On Thursday, the country reported 2,922 new cases of Covid and one death from the disease.
The active caseload across the country stands at 14,340 according to the data released by the Ministry of Health and Population on Thursday.
Regular Cabinet meetings have become uncertain after some ministers caught the virus and those in close contact are under quarantine, according to officials.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is in isolation for the second time after some staff members of his private secretariat got infected with Covid-19, said Deuba’s chief personal assistant, Bhanu Deuba.
Deuba went into isolation from Saturday after CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal tested positive for Covid-19.
After some members of the prime minister’s private secretariat and security personnel contracted Covid, Prime Minister Deuba has suspended all his meetings since Tuesday and no one is allowed to enter the prime minister’s residence, a member of the prime minister’s private secretary told the Post.
The PCR test of the prime minister conducted on Thursday has come out negative, Deuba’s private secretariat said.
Prime Minister Deuba and Dahal were present at a meeting of the high-level political mechanism in Baluwatar on Thursday. Deuba and other top leaders of ruling parties were identified as having been in contact with Dahal after the latter tested positive for the virus. But a Covid test on Deuba turned out negative on Monday but the spread of coronavirus in his close circle prompted his isolation again.
“We’re planning to conduct another test on the prime minister on Thursday after some of our staff at the prime minister’s private secretariat contracted Covid. There is little chance of holding meetings including the Cabinet’s any time soon,” said Deuba, the prime minister’s assistant.
The last time a Cabinet meeting was held was on January 5, Madhadev Panth, spokesperson for the Prime Minister Office, said. “We don’t know when the next meeting will be held.”
Besides Dahal, several senior Maoist leaders have been infected with coronavirus and are in home isolation. Minister for Education Devendra Poudel also contracted Covid. On Tuesday, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal tested positive for the virus.
“We have heard that at least five ministers of the Deuba Cabinet are infected so there is no chance of a Cabinet meeting anytime soon,” said a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office. “Some government secretaries are also infected with the virus.”
Amid the upsurge in cases, political parties have also deferred their activities including gatherings, mass meetings and other functions.
Similarly, ruling parties had formed a three-member task force to study and make a common position on the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a $500 million US grant to Nepal that has become bone of contention among the ruling parties. The task force was assigned to hold meetings and find a common position on the MCC grant so that it can tabled in the House for ratification, but the task force has not been able to meet after one of its members and senior Maoist Center leader, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, contracted Covid and went to home isolation.
“I am fine and recovering,” said Shrestha, adding, “The meeting of the task force has been postponed, but we will sit after my recovery.”
Another member of the task force from the Nepali Congress, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, who is also the Minister for Information and Communication is also in home isolation after some of his close contacts tested positive for Covid.
Similarly, several meetings and gatherings of political parties have also been affected. Nepali Congress was planning to launch a month-long nationwide training for party workers, but now the event has been postponed, according to party general secretary Bishwa Prakash Sharma.
“We were planning to launch a nationwide training in all 77 districts, but that will be rescheduled given the current Covid scenario,” said Sharma.
Another ruling coalition member, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), has postponed its Central Committee meeting, which was scheduled for Sunday in Kathmandu, after its chairman and several leaders and cadres were infected. The meeting was scheduled for January 8 to elect office bearers. “Now the meeting has been postponed to January 22,” Yubraj Chaulagain, a member of the organizing committee said.
After being infected with Covid on Tuesday, CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Nepal has issued a circular to limit in-person functions and hold such functions virtually. “If a gathering is a must then it should be done by following the Covid safety protocols,” said Nepal.
Similarly, political activities of the CPN-UML have also been affected by the new Covid wave, said party leaders. The UML has almost completed its district-level conventions but provincial conventions scheduled for January 22 have been postponed to February 11 and 12, according to the party’s Deputy General Secretary Bishnu Rimal.
On Thursday, the Rastriya Janamorcha, another partner in the ruling coalition, also postponed its provincial conventions scheduled for January 29-30 to February 18-19.