The power struggle within the ruling NCP has overshadowed the country’s COVID-19 emergency. The government has no time to listen to young activists who have been staging their second hunger strike demanding immediate measures to control the pandemic.
The ‘Enough Is Enough’ campaign is led by 26-year-old activist who calls himself Iih (pictured above) who has refused to be moved to hospital. On Thursday he was on the 13th day of his hunger strike under a tent at Kathmandu Darbar Square, and says his team members are “putting their lives at risk to save lives”.
They accuse the Health Ministry of breaking its promise on 26 June, and have among their demands: 100% PCR testing, timely results, safer quarantine facilities, full protection for frontline health workers, transparency in medical procurements, increased ICU capacity.
Iih and fellow-activist Pukar Bam are on IV fluid, and say they are willing to lay down their lives if need be to save the lives of Nepalis who could die from government incompetence in handling the pandemic. Another activist, Samariaa Shrestha was taken to hospital on Tuesday after 12 days of being without food and water.
On Wednesday, police arrested five Enough Is Enough campaigners near the Home Ministry at Singha Darbar, where they had gone to file a Right to Information application demanding details of how money for the management of the pandemic, as well as procurement of medical supplies, are being spent.
The five were briefly detained at the Mahendra Police Club, but they staged a sit in on the street outside after release, and there was another demonstration at the site on Thursday morning.
This is the group’s second hunger strike. The first in Patan Darbar Square was called off after 12 days on 7 July after the Ministry of Health agreed to fulfill all demands.
Nepal’s daily case detection is going up again after the government announced the lifting of the lockdown on 21 July. While most of the case so far have been found in people travelling overland from India, in the past week there are growing numbers of positive cases among those with no travel history.
The government has also started surveillance testing in some Tarai cities, and taking sample swabs from people entering Kathmandu Valley’s four entry points. The Ministry of Health still says Nepal is in the ‘cluster spread’ phase and has not yet entered the ‘community spread’.
With hotels and restaurants allowed to open from 30 July, and long-distance buses and limited domestic and international flights from 17 August, public health experts fear a further surge in cases.