Sunday, 14 April, 2024

Fighting Omicron

Like many other countries around the world, Nepal has been scrambling to deal with numerous challenges ranging from containing COVID-19 and reviving the economy battered by the pandemic to expediting development projects. With no hint of the global public health emergency subsiding in the near future, the country may have to continue facing a tricky situation in terms of fighting the fatal viral disease. The outbreak of newer variants such as Omicron indicates that the world might have to double down on its efforts to tackle the contagion. Omicron is considered to be a more transmissible coronavirus variant than others detected as of now. Though this variant is reported to be milder, several developed countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia have now reported a record number of coronavirus cases driven by Omicron. The US recorded some 1 million fresh COVID-19 infections on Wednesday alone. Numerous nations, including China, have also taken restrictive measures to stop the virus from spreading.

With an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases at an alarming rate in India lately, the country has stepped up strict measures to save the lives of people. Nepal has also started witnessing a rise in the number of coronavirus infections over some days. Although the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has asked the responsible authorities across the country to prepare for managing the possible third wave of the pandemic, no concrete steps seem to have been taken so far to this end. The MoHP has warned that the country might see the third wave within the next two weeks or so. However, the vaccination drive against the pandemic has been going on nationwide. About 38 per cent of citizens have already received the life-saving jabs. The government is also planning to start administering a booster dose to the vaccinated to enhance their immunity. It aims to vaccinate all the eligible citizens by mid-April this year.

With the dates for the elections of three-tier government (federal, provincial and local) nearing, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has said that the government was in close coordination with the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) to begin preparations for the same. According to PM Deuba, the government’s two top priorities include vaccinating all the citizens of the prescribed age groups against COVID-19 within the stipulated timeframe and holding the elections within a year. Addressing the first meeting of the implementation of the Common Minimum Programmes (CMP) of the present five-party coalition government and development priorities and governance held at Singha Durbar on Wednesday, Deuba said that the country may have to see quite challenging days amid the appearance of Omicron.

In such an adverse situation, it may not be easy for the government to hold the elections and revive the economy. He directed the ministers and secretaries to develop unified national strategy and action plan to revive the economy. Delivering services to people in a more efficient manner is another vital responsibility of the government. There are still grievances that the country’s service delivery system has not been much effective. Lapses are there on the development front too. Even the national pride projects have been unable to make desired progress. It is high time that the authorities concerned paid serious attention to this issue as well.