Government preaches but does not act, says political analysts and chief of local bodiesKathmandu Valley Mayors’ Forum alleges that the central government has just been issuing instructions while doing little to address the Covid-19 crisis.
The country is in the grip of Covid-19 pandemic with daily infections continuously crossing 8,000 mark and deaths logging over 200 cases for the past few days.
Kathmandu, the country's capital and the largest city, has become the biggest hotspot.
At Pashupati aryaghat, over 100 bodies of Covid-19 victims arrive daily for cremation, according to the people handling the cremation.
The city’s hospitals, meanwhile, are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and reeling under an acute shortage of oxygen. As a result, many hospitals have been forced to turn away Covid-19 patients.
As the crisis deepens, the state apparatuses, leaders and politicians seem to be doing little, if not nothing, to address the situation.
Throughout this pandemic, both the government and the political parties have been engaged in the game of political one-upmanship at the expense of the public, says Rajendra Maharjan, a political commentator.
“Our leaders are performing a naked dance instead of serving the people,” he said.
Maharjan sees Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli as the chief architect of the current crisis.
Besides acting as the be-all, end-all authority on Covid-19 by peddling unproven remedies and ignoring the advice of health experts, Maharjan said the Oli government undermined federalism, which invited the current situation.
“If only the Oli government had allowed the local governments to work, the situation would not have come to this depressing point,” he said.
The coronavirus has now spread from the Tarai plains to Mount Everest.
A few days earlier, Prime Minister Oli told CNN that the Covid-19 situation in Nepal was under control. But two days later, on Monday, he pleaded for help from the UK, the current chair of G7 nations, through an article in the Guardian newspaper.
“If only the Oli government had decentralised power, the situation would not have been this grave,” Maharjan said. “Although the constitution has given the right to the local bodies, all the resources, power and money are in the hands of the federal government.”
Two days after Oli pleaded for help from the international community, Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, who heads the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre, held a meeting with the Kathmandu Valley Mayors’ Forum on Thursday.
The meeting was held in the presence Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, who is the chair of the forum, Lalitpur Metropolitan City Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan, vice-chairperson of the forum, and Thimi Municipality Mayor Madan Sundar Shrestha, secretary of the forum. At the meeting, Minister Pokhrel and the mayors discussed setting up four integrated isolation centers in the Valley. The minister reportedly instructed the mayors to start the work immediately.
However, some of the forum representatives were not convinced by the minister's instruction and they blamed the federal government for taking unilateral decisions.
“The CCMC held numerous meetings earlier but we were never invited. Now when the government is unable to handle the situation, they are instructing us to set up isolation centres,” said Thimi Mayor Madan Shrestha.
He said integration isolation centres can be set up only if the Nepal Army and the Armed Police Force provide security at such centres.
During the first wave of the pandemic last year, Kathmandu Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, the head of the forum, had announced plans to construct a 5,000-bed integrated isolation centre but that didn’t materialise. Now a year later, as a second wave of the pandemic is sweeping across the country, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City has not set up even a single isolation centre for its residents. The Public Health Department of the City says that over 60 percent of Covid-19 infections being reported in Kathmandu district are from the city.
The City's data show there are 8,855 active cases and 8,319 infected people are living in home isolation.
On Friday, Nepal reported 8,467 new cases of Covid 19 with 203 deaths, the data included the number of deaths managed by Nepal Army on different dates.
Lalitpur Mayor Maharjan, who was also present at Thursday's meeting, said he was not convinced by the minister’s plan and that the forum would instead provide funds to the government for setting up isolation centres.
He said the mayors’ forum has announced that 35 percent of the total cost of setting up the isolation centres would be borne by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, 16 percent by Lalitpur and the remaining by other 16 municipalities of the Kathmandu Valley.
“The central government does not work but only gives instructions. I don’t think this plan will materialise,” said Maharjan, citing the government’s instruction to private hospitals to set up their own oxygen plants as an example.
The private hospitals have been instructed to set up such plants within 15 days.
Reacting to the government’s instruction, the Association of Private Health Institutions of Nepal on Friday issued a statement calling it impractical and ‘a nonsense’
Maharjan, the political commentator, says the government has been only making impractical announcements.
“If only the federal government had coordinated with local bodies, there could have been some control over the virus spread and there would have been lower fatalities,” said Maharjan.
Lalitpur Mayor Maharjan said his city has already constructed two isolation centres with a total 160 beds without seeking support from the government. Lalitpur Metropolitan City’s data show 2,687 people were in home isolation as of Thursday.
“We have 84 people living in an isolation centre and we have been providing free meals and medicines with round the clock doctor’s help,” said Maharjan. He said the city has readied Madan Smarak School and Patan High School to be used as isolation centres if more people are infected.
Similarly, Bhaktapur Municipality has already established 25 High Dependency Units (HDUs) — which, according to Bhaktapur Mayor Sunil Prajapati, provide care close to intensive care, and 50 isolation beds in Ward-9. All the HDUs are occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to Prajapati.
Lalitpur Mayor Maharjan says given the soaring infections, the Valley needs to set up integrated isolation centres with oxygen supply without delay.
“But I don’t think that would be possible from the government's side,” he said.