Nepal seems to have averted the first wave of COVID-19. However, without other mitigation measures being ramped up the gains made so far are likely to be undone. As Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas at the University of California Berkeley notes, “to be contained anywhere, the virus needs to be contained everywhere”.
Nepal’s exit strategy, Nepali Times
The paradox for Nepal is that while the lockdown can be counted among the world’s strictest, fewer people are likely to have built up ‘herd immunity’. So we are likely going to see an upsurge in cases when the mobility restrictions are removed as has started to happen this week.
Unfortunately, the government’s lack of a coherent strategy and inadequate mitigation measures may only delay the virus peak. Lockdowns are meant to be a way to buy time to prepare for future surges.
Hence, increasing testing and contract tracing, building quarantine centres, preparing and protecting health workers, streamlining social payments systems and outreach on hygiene and health are important. But the Nepal government machinery does not seem more prepared than when the lockdown was imposed on 24 March.
Worse, we are likely to be in a much more difficult situation if the virus spreads quickly later. With joblessness, stranded migrant workers waiting to return, the socio-economic impact will be even more difficult.
Preparing for Nepal’s returnees, Upasana Khadka
In terms of crisis preparation, there are no figures on how many PPEs (personal protection equipment) are available, and how long they are likely to last. The government has nearly run out of PCR tests and RNA extraction kits.
In many other countries, the leadership works day and night to turn lockdowns to their advantage. Vietnam, which a month ago was importing testing kits from South Korea, has started developing its own PCR tests and exporting them.
Nepal’s government machinery is what it is and we cannot expect it to function like in Australia or elsewhere. But Nepalis who have obediently stayed home for 50 days deserve stronger leadership, transparency and proactiveness.
Protecting Nepal’s elderly from COVID-19, Alisha Sijapati
Nepal’s leaders, who reaped a legitimacy windfall during the 2017 elections for handling the Indian Blockade are now in the united ruling party. They have squandered most of that legitimacy during the current crisis.
As of the first week of May, Nepal had carried out 14,000 PCR tests while Vietnam had done more than 200,000. Nepal’s PCR testing per capita remains among the lowest in the world at 466 per million. Vietnam has done 2,600 per million.
In this time of crisis, the lack of leadership, political instability and inadequate coordination are going to be deadlier than the virus. The Nepali people need to brace themselves. The worst may be yet to come.
Nepal must hope for the best, prepare for the worst, Buddha Basnyat and Sudeep Adhikari
Nepal’s future normal, Anil Chitrakar
Sudyumna Dahal is doing a PhD at the Australian National University, and is a researcher affiliated with the Center for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis (CAMA).