01Jul2022

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Category: Blog

Blog

Indian coronavirus variant raises alarm for Nepal

Disclaimer: The opinion is of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of NIPoRe at an appropriate place.

A new, more infectious, and deadly mutated virus of COVID-19, called B.1.617, emerged in India, and has now spread globally. At a time when the pandemic seemed to be under control in South Asia, this variant has increased exponentially, leading to a collapse of the health system in India and Nepal. As of 12 May 2021, more than 254,225 lives have been lost in India with 23,340,938 new cases. Due to an open and unregulated border system, the rise of infected people is increasing rapidly in the border area creating a threat to Nepal.

The first wave of the coronavirus cases in Nepal were also from across the India border. The movement of migrant workers has affected people on both sides of the border. Nepal’s health ministry has recorded that a total of 413,111 people were infected, and 4084 people had died as of 12 May 2021.The health ministry has already issued a notice that our health systems cannot control the pandemic. According to the health ministry projection, by July 15, the country’s coronavirus tally could reach 6,00,000.

A 15-day prohibitory order has been enforced in the Kathmandu valley effective from 27th April and it has been extended till May 27. The Ministry of Health and Population says it is next to impossible for hospitals to provide beds for coronavirus treatment to all those who need hospitalization. The health system is unlikely to sustain the shocking rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the country. There has been a shortage of oxygen, beds, and ventilators. Doctors are looking after patients in the corridors and in tents. Due to the shortage, many hospitals have refused to admit coronavirus patients.

Given the first wave in Nepal too came from India, there were lessons that Nepal could have learned. What are the lessons that Nepal chose not to learn from the first wave, and is now facing in the second wave?

Lesson 1: As soon as India faced its second wave, the Government of Nepal should have been proactive regarding active contact tracing, mass testing and surveillance, but we did not. The testing needs to be made easily, available, and free of costs to people.

Lesson 2: There is a need for proper coordination between federal, state, and local governments. It is obvious that it is the best time to show the competency of local governments. They have to identify and look after their own vulnerable population particularly pregnant and lactating women, children, senior citizens, migrant workers and persons with disabilities. Relief packages should be distributed in an equitable manner. They must ensure that these facilities provide all basic amenities, including nutritious food, gender-friendly sleeping areas and clean toilets along with the provision of mental health service in the quarantine/ isolation center.

Lesson 3: As our health system has already collapsed, there needs to be a public private partnership and all private health institutions should work closely with the public system. Health desk and covid call center needs to be established.

Lesson 4: As per the research paper published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6 000 people around the globe were hospitalized and at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19. Hence, social media should disseminate correct information and education to the public.

Blog

Going Digital can Save Nepal from Covid Catastrophe: Here’s How

Disclaimer: The opinion is of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of NIPoRe at an appropriate place.

– Anushruti Adhikari

While the new strain of Coronavirus in India was already becoming a heart-wrenching struggle even for the onlookers, stories of increasing Covid infections and deaths, people’s fight for treatment and supplies in the hospital along with toxic black marketing of health essentials have also become the general headlines of Nepal. Communities from across the country are becoming increasingly active in circulating information while placing notices for oxygen or hospital bed requests online. I have become used to the hourly updates of friends who are constantly doing so through whichever platform they can from Whatsapp to Instagram, when seeking physical assistance is impossible.

Taking lessons from India’s current pandemic scenario, Nepal knows better than to sit back and assume that the worst will soon be behind us. Local lockdowns have begun, and while our previous concerns were mostly around economic recovery, the same fear is now layered with the fact that the new strain can be life-threatening at a greater magnitude.

A good number of Nepalis across the country are already finding themselves on either side of request for oxygen cylinders or hospital beds. We may, like our friends in India, have been forced to post Covid information unconventionally on platforms that are used for entertainment purposes rather than life-or-death situations. But since we are a year deep into the pandemic, news and requests should not just be bursting from anywhere that is possible. Reaching out to people virtually is very much possible but there are more systematic and organized ways of doing this, ways that can increase chances of requests being heard and fulfilled.

India’s innovative startups have been doing what they can in response to the frightening spikes in the recent covid cases. From NGOs like Dhoondh which connects blood plasma donors to receivers, to HelpNow, an emergency ambulance service company, the local response has been immensely active which leaves the question: what should Nepal be doing then? Nepal has a cluster of telemedicine companies along with virtual blood banks, who were more or less ready for a crisis even before the pandemic. It is now time to expand these minimum investments and attention towards the social-media drive health tech industry.

These technologies are essential for citizens actively volunteering to fight against Covid, while guiding others who may want to provide help in any way possible from a safe distance. Services can range all the way from securely circulating information on local Covid situations, specific plasma donors, ambulances, oxygen availability, patients in dire need of medications and cash. Funds essential for paying medical bills for the low and low middle-income population can be collected privately and transparently through virtual drives, as similar initiatives have been largely successful in India. These media circles can even poke on the possible insufficiencies that may be clearly visible in treatment facilities.

Finally, most countries in the world are facilitating online Covid Vaccine appointments. As a result of smooth and systematic resource management through virtual platforms citizens have now got their required jabs. As a result, countries like the United States have officially removed the public mask mandate for them. But in the middle of the pandemic, most of us have not gotten even the first dose. Thus, while we may be technically unprepared for the pandemic, we are even less prepared for a post-pandemic situation, an irony that, while comical, cannot be laughed at anymore.
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Blog

Nepal’s Ticket to the International Market

Nepal’s Ticket to the International Market

Disclaimer: The opinion is of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of NIPoRe at an appropriate place.

– Anushruti Adhikari

In Nepal, there is more than one way to pay for international goods and services: you could spend hours at a bank standing in a line, you could annoy your distant friend or relative to make a dollar payment on your behalf or hunt down the ones who have fearfully acquired dollar cards so that international payment is slightly convenient. What is legal is not easy, and what is easy may not be documented or legal.

That is why the recent initiative by Nepal Rastra Bank which allows “A” and “B” class banks to issue prepaid dollar cards with a $500 ceiling, be it for the purpose of travel, education, entertainment, online shopping and the like, has already stirred much excitement among Nepali people

This new law will not only influence people to welcome the global e-commerce platform without any reservations, but also possibly change the purchasing behavior in 3 key ways.

Firstly, due to our minimum exposure to some virtual services like virtual telemedicine, online freelancers for hire, virtual fitness trainers, tele-nutritionists, virtual business and economic consultants etc. we don’t even consider them as possible items on our wish list. Our new ticket to these services expands our dimensions beyond just shopping on Amazon or paying a Netflix subscription fee. Global e-commerce has stretched far beyond the common industry giants and their general online market, and with enough dollars, subscription or service of any kind is now imaginable.

In addition, any person who owns a dollar card can now single-handedly make international transactions in a formal, transparent, and legal way. Real international market transactions will now be directly contributing to the formal economy while people’s real market behavior according to their location can be calculated and observed. If the $500 limit is too restrictive for some of the consumers, their needs will soon be clear, thanks to real-time accurate purchasing data.

Finally, online market accessibility may be able to finally discourage us from opting for piracy. Nepali people have had years of market gap where international intangible goods from movies and e-books all the way to high end softwares were always advertised but were never available for legal purchase, which led most of us to opt for piracy. But now thanks to the dollar card, instead of hunting for your favorite series on torrent, you can choose to take up a subscription package on Amazon Prime. You will opt to buy books on Kindle. You’d rather get an authentic Adobe Photoshop Software than ask a friend for a pirated setup.
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