With the fear of potential outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) looming large even in Nepal, the government has stepped up measures to prevent the transmission of the epidemic. The government has already formed three high-level committees, including the one headed by Minister for Health and Population Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, to stop the virus from entering the country. Minister for Finance, and Communication and Information Technology Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, while addressing a weekly press meet organised to make the cabinet’s decisions public at his office on Thursday, said that the government has ensured smooth supply of essential items such as medicines, surgical masks and sanitisers. Mobilising all of its mechanisms, the government has intensified preparedness against the virus after the outbreak of the viral disease in neighbouring countries. It has strengthened its coordination with the state and local governments, and neighbouring nations in this connection.
Ever since the detection of cases of the deadly virus in China in December last year, Nepal has begun conducting health check-up of all inbound tourists at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and border points. The health screening services have also been extended to six major border points taking the possible outbreak of the virus into consideration. Besides, necessary arrangements have also been made for quarantine check-up. Amidst public fears that the country could face a shortage of essential medicines like paracetamol and antibiotics when India resorts to putting a ban on the export of such drugs, the Government of Nepal has asked the Indian government to make special consideration for Nepal. It may be recalled here that India had sought a list of essential medicines that Nepal needs. Thanks to preparedness and precaution measures taken by the government and people, no Nepali citizen has so far been infected with COVID-19. However, more than two dozen people have been admitted to the isolation ward of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.
It is high time we focussed on avoiding the possible transmission of the virus from the outer sources. Instead of getting panicked, everyone should also take up preventative measures to remain safe from the virus. As Kathmandu, Pokhara and some other cities began witnessing an artificial shortage of essential goods, including drugs and surgical masks, the Department of Supply Management and Protection of Consumers Interest has intensified market monitoring. The department has mobilised a joint market monitoring team inside the Kathmandu Valley to control artificial price rise of surgical masks. Those who are found guilty must be brought to justice. Some private companies, however, have pledged to increase production of surgical masks to meet the growing demand. The Holi festival (Fagu Purnima), which is being marked on upcoming Monday in the hills and Tuesday in the Terai, is also going to be affected due to the virus. Issuing a public notice, the District Administration Offices across the country have appealed the public to remain alert against the COVID-19 and adopt necessary precautionary measures. In line with that notice, people should avoid gathering and mingling during the Holi to avoid possible transmission risks.