The District Administration Offices (DAOs) of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur on Tuesday issued an order, prohibiting all the social gatherings and events such as mass assemblies, conferences and seminars, and the like that pull crowds. This order comes amid an alarming spread of coronavirus lately, notably its Omicron variant. The DAOs have asked to conduct all sorts of meetings in virtual forms. In case the physical attendance of people is required, the gathering of 50 people has been allowed. As per the new prohibitory order that came into effect from Wednesday, all special worship programmes have been banned in religious sites until 12 February but the temple priests can conduct their regular worships and prayers. Likewise, the authorities have instructed to shut down health clubs, dance bars, gyms and swimming pools, among others, till January 29. In order to enter the public spaces, the people are required to show a vaccination card, hard or soft copy, compulsorily while the public vehicles are not allowed to ferry passengers beyond their seating capacity. All service-seekers need to be fully vaccinated when they visit the public offices.
The number of COVID-19 cases has of late skyrocketed much to the chagrin of Nepalis who have already learnt to adapt to the new normal following first and second wave of coronavirus pandemic. The latest spike in the virus cases have been largely attributed to the emergence of the new Omicron mutant of the virus which is highly contagious compared to its previous strains such as Delta. Omicron began to run amok across the continents at a time when medical scientists have done much against the mutating virus. This had given a sigh of relief to the people panicked by the pandemic. However, the new variant has started to spread its tentacles once again and demanding all safety and preventive measures. This COVID conundrum has even disrupted the pattern of new normal. It has sent shockwaves to the political, economic, trade, tourism and education sectors. Recently, a host of political leaders have caught the COVID infections, forcing their parties to cancel and postpone their meetings.
Despite being highly contagious, Omicron has less severe symptoms and fatality than other variants, according to the experts. It may be due to growing herd immunity and the development of antibodies in the infected people or the variant-specific characteristics. This positive side, however, should not make us careless regarding safety protocols. Massive vaccination drive that has been launched in the country has weakened the potent of virus and helped develop immunity of the people. Nonetheless, there are people who have not been vaccinated yet. They should be inoculated as soon as possible. The government has announced a five-day mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 from January 30. Schools will serve as vaccination booths for the purpose. This decision has come on the recommendation of the COVID-19 Crisis Management Coordination Centre (CCMCC). The university-level examinations will be conducted by strictly complying with the health safety measures. The government’s line agencies should work in close coordination to smoothly administer the vaccines to the people while timely notifying them about the date and centres of vaccination.