Dear Sisters and Brothers,
- Today the world is suffering from the pandemic of corona virus, and is fighting against it. And, we too are in the fight against the pandemic. In this process, the country has been under lockdown for the last 62 days. Despite our relentless efforts to avoid loss of life, three Nepali citizens have died of this disease within the country. I am deeply saddened by the loss of human lives, both within and outside the country, and express deep condolences to the bereaved family members.
- The lockdown has been in force until 2 June 2020. The Government is serious and sensitive to the difficulties the lockdown has caused to our overall economy and to the people’s lives within the country. Freeing the people from the pandemic, preserving the economy from the ensuing risk and protecting people from diseases and hunger are the tasks the Government considers as its foremost obligation.
Brothers and Sisters,
- In my address last month, I had stated that the coming weeks would be even more challenging. The World Health Organization, having acknowledged the number of infections remaining within two digits from 15 February to 11 April and the observance of lockdown without having suffered human casualty, had listed Nepal as progressing from the high-risk level. However, the infections began to increase after the first week of Nepali New Year. The number of people infected has now crossed 600. The risks that lie ahead have necessitated a higher level of alertness, augmented planning for control and transformation of all state apparatus to be visibly smart and effective.
- Our steps until now have been successful, though the preparation in the initial days appeared somewhat slack. The lockdown has caused inconvenience to people’s life, but it has nevertheless helped in social distancing, case identification, isolation and contract tracing. The timely decision of lockdown, closure of international borders and suspension of flights, together with the preparation of procedures for hospital services and their implementation, have saved us from the potential deadly damage of the pandemic. Treatment of the infected during this period, including the two-month old infant and 81-year senior citizen, is quite an achievement. While the state of epidemic control in Nepal has been effective in comparison with some other South Asian nations, the situation is far from being confident. The Government is aware of the reality that the battle against the corona virus is going to be much protracted and challenging.
- The problems regarding procurement of medicines and equipment owing to the limited sources of their supply have been resolved. The facility for testing COVID-19 that was earlier limited to only one laboratory has now been expanded to all seven Provinces. Testing has been accelerated with the establishment of more than 20 laboratories. In order to expand the scope of testing, the supply and management of equipment and medicines will be improved. The Government is planning to expand the testing to cover at least two percent of the population as advised by experts.
- The collaboration at the federal and provincial levels will be made more effective so that each local body is capable to provide health protection and services, supply essential goods and maintain law and order in the face of the COVID-19. Specifically, local levels, in partnership, will be enabled in the arrangement of quarantines, supply of relief materials, management of supply system and monitoring. The number of quarantines will be increased and their standards reviewed for wider improvement. Utilization of hotels and public infrastructures, currently not in operation, as quarantine facility is under the plan. Under the management of the central and local level, there will be medical treatment of the infected people and those in quarantine will be provided with food and care.
- The places where infection has spread will be sealed with the launch of testing and control actions on a ‘war footing’.
- As the pandemic continues to expand, all government agencies must be agile and effective. Any leadership that is unable to cope with the situation will be reviewed. The role played by the concerned person at this hour of national emergency will be the basis for reward and punishment.
- The unified ‘command’ and central planning against the corona virus pandemic will be made more effective. At the central, provincial and local levels, contact-persons or agencies will be designated for enhancing institutional efficiency including through regular flow of information, communication and effective coordination. A consultative mechanism will be announced at the earliest involving a cross-section of people having interest in and associated with the pandemic in any way.
Sisters and brothers,
- Any other issues should not weaken the ongoing ‘battle’ against the corona virus and I am clear about it. As I mentioned earlier, for humanity life comes first. The Government remains effortful to the extent possible not to put people’s lives at risk, either for disease or hunger. The Government remains grateful to the Nepali nationals for their cooperation to the Government’s efforts so far, and hopes for even more constructive support in the days to come.
- The flow of people returning to Nepal from abroad is on the rise. I have held serious conversations with the Heads of States and Governments of the countries with larger number of Nepali migrant workers and diaspora. The Heads of States and Governments have assured me of their full cooperation on my request for protection of Nepalis in time of difficulty. I wish to thank them all. In addition to this, an executive order will be issued immediately with a ‘comprehensive plan for repatriation of Nepalis in need of return to the homeland due to the world-wide pandemic of the COVID-19’. The Government will evacuate its nationals stranded in any corner of the world on a timely basis. While balancing the priority for returnees having serious problems and preparations made within the country, this task will start soon. The Government is responsive to its citizens and I call upon you all to rest assured of it.
- In accordance to the protocol of the World Health Organization, health test of those returning home was required. This could have contained the pandemic to a large extent from spreading into community level. But most of the countrymen returning home from India are continuing crossing the border without observing the guidelines and undergoing virus test, while suffering many hardships themselves. In the absence of testing, this has also been contributing to the rapid spread of the pandemic.
- It is necessary that countrymen who have already entered the country should get themselves tested at the earliest, maintain social distancing, remain in quarantine in a safe way and observe other rules/guidelines. Local-level governments have now to shoulder additional responsibilities to extend necessary assistance for this purpose. It is during such difficult times that people need to come together for each other’s help. Only through mutual cooperation and vigilance among the people pandemics like COVID-19 could be controlled.
- We should clearly keep in mind that nobody leaves her/his country for her/his own choice only. And nobody wishes to return home infected. I would like to urge all countrymen to be extra conscious for not harming the dignity and self-respect of your home-returning brothers and sisters by guarding your speech and behaviors. Similarly, I request to all brothers and sisters who have returned home to be vigilant and alert to ensure that you do not become the cause of spread of the virus among your own family members, neighborhood and community, and observe strictly other rules and guidelines advised/issued by the doctors and administration. During these difficult times, some elements may be active to spread rumors and disinformation to fulfil their own vested interests and goals. I call upon you to remain vigilant to the incitements of such irresponsible elements who are bent on spreading disenchantment in the society by misleading the people.
- Observing the worldwide trend and its effects in our country, it appears that the spread of the pandemic will still continue for some time to come. The Government will undertake new measures to contain the further spread of the virus in communities.
- Due to the pandemic, the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) had to be postponed just two days before it was to commence. Hundreds of thousands of students are now in uncertain situation. There is no suitable condition yet to immediately conduct the examinations. Therefore, in order to avoid the loss of entire academic year for the SEE examinee students, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will soon make necessary arrangements. The Ministry will put in place necessary policy provisions, including the use of virtual classrooms, so that teaching-learning activites under the new academic year in schools and colleages go ahead.
- Necessary economic activities will be resumed while minimizing the risks of COVID-19
- As emphasized in the Government’s policies and programs, in order to ensure that the farming season is not wasted, agricultural activities will continue observing social distancing and necessary precautions. Whereas, in order to contain the spread of the virus in the community level strict administrative regulations to control the movement of people up to the required limit will continue.
- The Government is well aware of the important role agriculture can play in addressing poverty and unemployment that could further increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Serious problems prevalent in our agriculture sector today are: absence of large-scale commercial agricultural production utilizing modern machines and technologies to a desired level and; the situation in which producers who put in all the hard works and investment as well as consumers who buy the produce are not duly benefited, while middlemen in between the farmers and the consumers are taking undue benefits. In order to address this situation, program has been recently adopted by the parliament ‘to reduce food-stuff import, to be self-reliant in agriculture, to gradually speed up the increase of agricultural export, and to generate massive employment and self-employment opportunities’.
- Our effort and experiment to keep the economy moving and to carry on the national pride projects and many other development projects even in the midst of the pandemic has been successful. Even during the pandemic projects such as Upper Tamakoshi, Melamchi, Pokhara, Bhairahawa and Kathmandu airport construction/expansion, as well as Ranipokhari, Dharahara and other reconstruction projects are successfully moving ahead. This has further reinforced our commitment and to carry on development works while tackling the pandemic. Now permissions will be granted for additional industries which can operate within the applicable control limits. Arrangements will be made to bring workers to the location of the factories/enterprises from their home districts under the administration’s strict supervision by first conducting their Corona tests and under the condition that such workers are not allowed to mix-up with the local community. Relevant entrepreneurs should themselves monitor the compliance of the protocols applicable to the workers in their enterprises and regularly report that to the related administrative bodies. Based on the effectiveness of this arrangement, gradually more enterprises will be allowed to operate. In order to ensure the smooth supply of daily essential products and to increase internal production, the entire supply chain in between the transporation of raw materials/inputs and the finished products to the market will not be allowed to be disrupted. Internal transporation of essential goods and necessayy import/export will be made smooth.
- The Government will put in place necessary provisions of relief facilities for industrial-entrepreneurial sector affected by the adverse impacts of the pandemic. Such facilities will include tax exemptions, writing off the fees, waiver of the interest to the loans, concessional loans and other concessions including in the areas of electricity tariff. The Government is fully aware of the fact that the economy cannot be strong without a robust private sector. The Ministry of Finance will separately announce a comprehensive proposal on economic recovery package in order to revive the economy that has been seriously damaged by the pandemic.
- At this difficult time, there will be no cuts in social security assistance that the state has been providing to people with disabilities or others categories. The scope of the social security will be widened. The contribution based social security system will be reformed; the contribution overdue of all the laborers incorporated in this system will be covered by the public fund for the time being.
- The Government is firm in its premise of ‘let’s give relief to those who can’t do labor, let’s give job to the rest, and support them economically’. Large chunk of deposits available at present in the Natural Disaster Reduction and Problem Solving Fund under the leadership of the Prime Minister and Natural Disaster Relief Fund under the leadership of the Home Minister will be transferred to the Corona Infection Prevention, Control and Treatment Fund. This will contribute further in the prevention, control and treatment of Covid-19.
- At this time our workers have returned home in large numbers after losing jobs overseas. Likewise, foreign workers employed in Nepal have already returned or are in the process of returning to their respective countries due to the covid-19 pandemic. The employment opportunities available in the country and new jobs created by such movement of foreign workers will be provided to those returnee workers from the overseas employment and other unemployed Nepali youths within the country. The Government will arrange for skill development and training programs necessary for this.
- It has already been discussed regarding our journey towards self-sustained economy by creating self-employment in the areas of agriculture, small and medium enterprises, construction and service sector.
- People’s participation with remuneration and labor-intensive development and construction works with technology will be conducted at the local level in collaboration among the federal, provincial and local-level governments. The listed workers will be mobilized in the available employment opportunities by utilizing the Employment Service Center under the Prime Minister Employment Program as the labor bank. The local level governments will facilitate the returnee workers from overseas employment as well as the unemployed youths within the country to get registered with the Employment Service Center.
Sisters and Brothers,
- We should internalize the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic might not subside in the short time. Viruses have no cure, and this virus has not any cure either. Experts opine that so long as the vaccine against this virus is not developed, the only way available to control this pandemic is the necessary adjustments and consciousness in our behavior, food and fitness habits. The precautions so far include maintaining social distancing in order to check person-to-person spread of the virus and building immunity power in every individual. Let’s think, why there is a similarity in the items used in our Nepali kitchen, be it that of affluent or that of marginal poor, or be it in the form of regular vegetable or pickle? This is because there is medicinal essence in it. The medicinal elements in the items that are utilized in our kitchen from thousands of years of tradition of our forefathers greatly contribute to strengthening our immunity. Therefore, I would like to request you to observe the following five things for building healthy Nepal:
- First, let us make our diet fresh and balanced in order to build healthy Nepal while fighting this pandemic.
- Second, let us utilize the lockdown leisure to become healthy. Let us give continuity to the physical and breathing exercise for our fitness inside home.
- Third, virus enjoys in the dirty environment, let us keep our utmost attention in the cleanliness of our body and house premises.
- Fourth, it is necessary to take adequate rest to become healthy, let us pay attention to it.
- Five, let us keep our morale high. Fear and threat, worries and doubts erode our strength in our fight against illness.
- If we see the percentage of those losing life due to Corona virus, it is less than the percentage of those who die of seasonal influenza, which is well reflected in the statistics itself. Let’s not forget, humankind has come to today’s place by facing every challenges on its way. Humankind has faced extraordinary adversities in its civilizational history. It has overcome the difficult times like ice-age. It has moved ahead facing various pandemics at the time when there were no medicines and hospitals. I have also discussed earlier, the character of Nepali people is to face the challenges, to rise from the ground dusting off and continue moving ahead. We can be safe and defeat corona virus if we keep our behavior and food in order. So, let us keep our thoughts positive.
- The government has named it as ‘mission for healthy Nepal’; it has made ‘building healthy Nepal’ a major health policy. The policy has been adopted to launch preventive programs for enhancing immunity of Nepali people by promoting nature-friendly and healthy lifestyle. The Government is committed to put all its strength to fight Covid-19 pandemic at present, and to adopt preventive and curative methods in the health services for a corona free Nepal.
- The morale of Nepali people is high, and their immunity power is extraordinary. I have firm belief that we will be able to defeat this pandemic by observing various measures put in place by the Government and on the strength of our high morale and immunity power.
- I wish you all a very good health.