People are unsure if or when normalcy will return as coronavirus cases seem to be only just risingProtracted lockdown has affected thousands of people in Kathmandu who have come from other parts of the country for jobs and studies.
Rajesh Shrestha was planning to open his family hardware store at Shankhadhar Chowk in Bhaktapur after 52 days. The coronavirus lockdown had entered its eighth week and Shrestha had observed that the restrictions were somewhat relaxed in his neighbourhood . There was a noticeable rise in the number of traffic on roads, more people were getting outside their homes and several shops were open for a longer period than the previous weeks.
But just when Shrestha thought that it was safe to open his store, news reports broke out that more than 80 coronavirus cases were confirmed—the country's daily highest—and two of them were in Bhaktapur.
It soon became apparent to Shrestha that the lockdown restrictions were getting stricter. The dreaded coronavirus had infiltrated his hometown.
A 25-year-old nurse at Lalitpur-based Arogya Foundation and a 27-year-old security guard of former Defence Minister Bhim Rawal became the index patients in Bhaktapur. The nurse lived in Shankhadhar Chowk, Shrestha’s neighbourhood, and the second patient in Duwakot.
Suddenly it was a curfew-like lockdown in my area, Shrestha says. Everything was brought to an abrupt halt.
“It was only until a few days earlier, we felt safe and relieved because there were no new cases in the Valley. The new cases have triggered fear and uncertainty,” Shrestha told the Post.
Now, he is not sure if or when things will get back to the way they were.
This sense of uncertainty is also felt by Ranjana Shakya, who owns a boutique shop in Pulchowk, Lalitpur.
After the authorities sealed off the premises of Arogya Foundation and Nidan Hospital in Pulchowk over a coronavirus infection case, the 33-year-old says her frustration has gotten worse. Her shop has been closed for more than two months now and with the latest coronavirus cases in the Valley.
“I have to pay Rs 30,000 as a monthly rent for my shop which has been closed for over two months now,” Shakya said.
She is worried about losing her business and at the same time she is also concerned about the safety of herself and her family.
“I guess the Valley is no longer safe now. I wonder when we are going to live a normal life. This is very frustrating,” she told the Post.
As the government has continued to extend the lockdown in succession, with no apparent strategy to restart normal life, millions of people across the country have been affected. Many are barely getting by without jobs and businesses.
In Kathmandu Valley, thousands of people who have come from other parts of the country for jobs and studies are struggling to pay their rent and buy food.
“I am already running out of food. If the lockdown is not relaxed soon, I will have nothing to eat,” said Bhojindra Timalsena, a Lamjung native who earned a living selling aloe vera juice before the lockdown.
He says he has no source of income right now and wishes to return home.
“If the government made arrangements for people like us to return to our hometowns, then we could at least survive there,” he added.
With the spike in coronavirus cases in the country, the government has further restricted the movement of people by revoking all previous vehicle passes.
The explosion of cases and most recently the deaths of two Covid-19 patients have stoked public fear, causing them to retreat back to the safety of their homes.
Scientists and health experts say the virus is here to stay and the government should find a way to resume normal life by introducing various health and safety precautions. Many countries around the world, some of which suffered the worst from the pandemic, have started to emerge from lockdowns.
Nepal, in the meantime, seems to have no exit plan from the lockdown, which has been extended for the seventh time till June 2.
What little hope that the people had of resuming their normal lives was thrown out gear when the virus struck Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country, Narayan Prasad Bhatta, chief district officer of Lalitpur, told the Post.“After the latest incident of infections, the people seem more worried.”
The entire country is under lockdown since March 24 and with the cases of coronavirus infection only starting to peak, it remains unknown when normalcy will return.