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Learn from the COVID 19 Situation

न्यायपालिका
२०७७-०१-२९

Learn from the COVID 19 Situation

A novel Corona virus (Covid19) that emerged in late 2019, is threatening the entire world right now. The resulting Covid-19 disease has been labeled a “Public Health Emergency” of International Concern by the World Health Organization. Identified first in China, the virus has already spread around the world and has shaken the faith of humanity with its expeditious nature. The most powerful and developed countries have already surrendered to its widespread nature. The number of corona virus cases in Europe and United States is escalating, and all the countries have adopted preventive measures including lock-downs to get control over the widespread of the virus. The World Health Organization has considered social distancing as the only best way possible to be untouched by the virus for now. Following the suggestion more than 150 countries has already pondered and adopted the practice of social distancing. More than Four million people are affected and more than  250 thousands people have died by the virus. It is quite strange for us to experience such a threat to human civilization and the down fall of economy globally.

Fortunately, Nepal is one of the countries with no death polls. But the number of affected is increasing day by date lately. However, it does not mean that death will not occur in Nepal, as our neighboring countries are harshly being affected. Corona Virus transfer from one person to another without any symptoms initially. The life threatening symptoms is only shown after 14 to 21 days. By then, there is a high chance that human immune system would fail and it would be too difficult to recover the damages. Senior doctors around Nepal has been disseminating information via social Medias and interview that Nepal has no sufficient tools and health kits to test the virus. The recent corruption scandal has fueled people’s sentiment to distrust the government’s preparedness. At this time in one way or the other, social distancing strategy is being boon for government and to people as well and remains as the best way to slow the spread. 

Legal reforms? 

This outbreak has been recognized as a global challenge, which requires global solutions, although whilst the solution and response may vary from countries to countries. Due to phenomena like climate change, urbanization and globalization, more pandemics are likely to be seen in the days ahead.  It is high time for Nepal to learn a lesson, develop its own response mechanism, and prepare for similar circumstances in the upcoming future. It is the right time to analyze and review the existing legislation, policies, strategies and institutional and organizational structure in dealing with Disaster Risk Management and Infectious Disease control. The existing Infectious Disease Act, 2020 is not sufficient to deal with the situation as such. It only mentions to abide by the orders of government in such a situation. Criminal Code 2074 also tries to criminalize the act of non-abidance of government orders with higher punishment but these two acts seems contradicting and creates confusion. For example, Section 3(1) of Infectious Disease Act, 2020 has imposed punishment up to one month or 100 rupees fine or both for violating government’s decision during pandemic. However, section 106 of Criminal Code 2074 prescribes 6 months of imprisonment or fine of Rs. 5000 or both for violation of orders, laws or directives given by Government of Nepal, Provincial Government or Local Level in same situation. These laws are so ambiguous, overlapping and scattered that in time of emergency it creates confusion. It is highly required that the legislative members re-think to consolidate all the laws relating to the  Disaster Risk Reduction and Infectious Disease control and come up with new mechanisms to fight all kind of disasters including pandemics. 

Time for new move?

Currently endorsed Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, 2074 has somehow provided basis for promoting and enforcing certain rights and obligation to groups and individuals. It has tried to structure government authorities by creating mechanisms like Council for management of Disaster Risk Reduction under the supervision of Prime Minister, a separate working Committee under the supervision of Home Minister, provincial level authority with Home Minister being its head and local level authorities. But in practice these authorities remains unformed. The same act incorporates provision for formation of a special committee of experts to provide suggestion to the government during disasters including pandemics. But this is not in practice at all. Recent Health Policy of 2076 envision every possible problems and includes a policy to juxtapose all the possible measures to avoid disasters. The most common findings in all these recently adopted laws and polices is that these shows our preparedness during natural calamities but not for virus outbreaks. No law prioritizes the development of well-equipped labs, research centers and public health infrastructures to fight against such outbreaks. No guiding measures are provided to bring bacteriologist, biomedical scientist, virologist, microbiologist and public health experts to come to one common forum to research on antibodies for pandemics. This shows how much we rely upon scientist abroad to create a vaccine for us or we stay in hope for the donation.

Learn from the past

The 2015 earthquake taught that Nepal was short on long-term disaster planning and in dealing with health issues. And as of now Nepal should have already developed the “long-term strategy”. Nepal is highly depended upon the short-term measures only. It lacked major actions in the years after earthquake. Therefore to look prepared for this situation in the long run the effective mobilization of all the human resources to all the structured authorities is must. It helps in conducing empirical researches on how to deal with pandemics. Most importantly necessary health care workers should be trained, a regional testing labs is to be formed and quarantine centers should be identified. It is also observed from the 2015 earthquake that the security agencies like Nepal Army, Armed Police Force and Nepal Police are highly trained for disasters during natural calamities. Now is time that the Government should form a task force of the security agencies to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease emergencies as well. It is also the right time to motivate young researchers, microbiologist, biomedical scientist, public health experts including all to create a forum for significant contribution to the country.

Similarly, the major challenges faced by general public is that when the people are adhering with the lockdowns, they are deprived of their basic Fundamental Rights. In such a situation, the management of disaster and control of infectious disease requires a multi-sectorial approach. Therefore, focusing on educating and sensitizing people on the issues of public health, creating link between the people, Private entity, civil society and Government for sharing information and resources is must as future steps. Most importantly there should be effective coordination between federal, state, local level and local community organizations in time of emergency to create a symbiosis and help vulnerable.

{Article is jointly written by Advocate Abesh Adhikari and Krishna Pal}

मुख्य शब्द:
Advocate Abesh Adhikari
COVID 19
Krishna Pal
Learn from the COVID-19 Situation
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करियर
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