COVID-19

News Digest (August 6 – August 12, 2020)

CESIF Nepal Democracy & Governance, Economy & Development, Gender & Social Inclusion, International Relations & Foreign Affairs, National Security & Climate Change, News Digest, News Digest, Thematic Areas Leave a Comment

Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP concluded that their effort to ‘correct’ Oli had failed and that the only alternative remaining was to change Oli’s role.[1] Leader Nepal accused Oli of adopting the ‘I am state; I am the party’ mentality, which he believes has caused the party’s internal struggle.

Referring to his ‘one-sided’ press releases and statements amidst an ongoing intra-party struggle, PM Oli’s chief advisor Bishnu Rimal attacked NCP’s spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha in a tweet; he cautioned Shrestha to at least respect his position as the party’s spokesperson.[2]

NCP deputy chair and senior leader Bamdev Gautam clarified that he does not belong to any of the three factions within the party—led by PM Oli, Dahal, and Nepal each. He also suggested that his six-point deal, which he forwarded aiming to end the ongoing intra-party struggle, was also an example of his independence in the party.[3]

NCP lawmakers have started collecting signatures in an effort to pressurize the top leadership against a party split.[4]

At an informal meeting with central committee members at his residence on August 20, NCP leader Madhav Nepal said that PM is being given a change and that efforts are being made to bring him to dialogue despite the majority against the PM.[5]

There has been a complete lack of dialogue between Oli and Dahal for a week.[6]

Nepali Congress (NC): At a high level meeting at NC president Deuba’s residence, leaders agreed to increase the party’s active membership by a solid 100 percent, which will take the total membership figure to one million. The agreement will be finalized in NC’s upcoming central committee meeting.[7]

Nepali Congress has alerted the government to immediately address the youths protesting and fasting till death on the streets of Kathmandu. Questioning what the Oli government is waiting for, NC spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma released a statement on August 7, 2020.[8]

Questioning PM Oli’s direction to local representatives of Madi, Chitwan, to construct a huge Ram temple, Nepali Congress spokesperson, Bishwaprakash Sharma, criticized the PM for destroying the houses of the Chepang community in the same district.[9]

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and intra-party disputes between the Deuba and Poudel faction, Nepali Congress is set to postpone its 14th general convention scheduled for February 2021.[10]

NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel presented a seven-point proposal to rejuvenate the party; his proposal includes solidifying the party’s stance on its ‘rebirth,’ ideology, equitable progress, environment, management and organization, social and religious tolerance, and foreign policy.[11]

Despite Poudel’s strong criticism that Deuba is forming new departments and appointing members close to him in an effort to please the party workers and influence the upcoming party convention, the NC president added five new departments on August 9 and 10, making a total of 668 new appointments in 15 departments.[12]

Some 12 central committee members, including lawmaker Gagan Thapa, requested Deuba to annul the new departments and not form any more, as the timeline for the party’s general convention has already been finalized.[13]

Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN): The JSPN has concluded that PM Oli is both physically and mentally very weak.[14] The party also claimed that the government has shown an authoritarian character.[15] The prime minister’s secretariat, however, released a press note condemning the JSPN’s ‘vulgar and prejudiced’ remarks on the PM.[16]

Governance

Border Dispute: Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa accused the neighboring country of encroaching lands of Nepal. Thapa has not taken any names, but his statement is believed to be targeted at India. Speaking in a meeting of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee in Parliament, on August 12, Thapa mentioned about ‘removing pillars and changing locations of the marks at other times’. Minister Thapa said that it is the responsibility of Foreign Ministry to solve border disputes, and that his ministry too is committed to safeguarding the borders.[17]

Flight, long-route buses suspension to be continued: The government has decided to extend the suspension of international and domestic flights until September 1. Similarly, long route buses will also be under suspension until September 1. Earlier, the government had stated that the halt in flights and long-route buses would take place until August 17. This comes in the light of the rise in the number of cases around the country. The border restriction will continue to take place until September 16. The decision to continue suspension was taken on August 10.[18]

Rise in COVID-19 cases: The Ministry of Health and Population has said that the risk of COVID-19 will continue in Nepal until the virus is contained in India. In a program, he argued that because Nepal shares an open border with India, it is very hard to contain the virus in the country. So, unless the virus is contained in India, Nepal poses risk in its cases. Reiterating that the government was putting efforts into contain COVID-19 in the country, he urged everyone to stop blaming the government for its spread. He also suggested asymptomatic patients to stay in home isolation, under the supervision of doctors.

In the light of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, the Department of Immigration has halted its services from August 10 until further notice after one of its employees tested positive for coronavirus. With various government offices conducting PCR tests among its employees, Chief Commissioner at Commission for Investigation for Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Navin Kumar Ghimire has also been reported of contracting the coronavirus infection. Along with the chief, many others at CIAA have tested positive for COVID-19. [19]

Cabinet decision on containment of COVID-19 measures: The cabinet on August 10, made some major decisions regarding the containment of COVID-19 on August 11. The decisions were published for the public to be regulated from August 12. Decisions that were made in by the cabinet are: International and domestic flights to continue suspension until September 1; Hotels and Restaurants will only be available for takeaway services; Continued restrictions at border point from India until September 16 with an exception of goods and cargo; Banks, cooperatives and financial institutions to function with only 50% staff and to limit its delivery services to only electronic; Selling of vegetables, fruits, and clothes on footpaths, pushcarts and bicycles, and collection of scraps banned temporarily.[20]

International Relations & Foreign Policy

Indian PM’s comment during Ram Janmabhoomi puja: On August 5, Indian PM Narendra Modi stated that Lord Rama’s marriage to Janakpur’s Sita had connected Nepal and India. PM Modi made the remarks after laying the foundation stone at Lord Rama’s birthplace in Ayodhya.[21]

US professor’s comment on China-Nepal: American Political scientist and international relations scholar Prof. John J Mearsheimer, in a webinar organised by NIICE, said that China’s increasing power could hurt Nepal’s sovereignty. He said that Nepal must balance the relations between China and India.[22]

PM Oli wishes new Sri Lankan PM: On August 7, PM Oli extended congratulatory note to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakse. Both the counterparts acknowledged their bilateral relationship and expressed commitment to strengthen relations in the future. The Prime Ministers discussed the fight against COVID-19 and also decided to plan a diplomatic visit after the pandemic is over.[23]

Bangladeshi Ambassadors term almost over: On August 7, Bangladeshi Ambassador to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams visited Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel. Minister Pokhrel expressed the crucial role Ambassador Shams played in strengthening the relations between the two countries as she is returning upon the completion of her tenure. Ambassador Shams emphasised her contribution to trade, tourism, water resources, and investment promotion.[24]

Much-awaited Nepal-India dialogue: Despite Nepal and India affirming to resolve border issues through diplomatic channels, the two countries have failed to create an environment for the same. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali is impatiently meeting former foreign ministers, diplomats, ambassadors, and experts to solicit their advice on how to resolve the dispute with India. Oli’s several attempts at initiating dialogue have also gone vain. Some leaders blame the internal party rift for the delay in dialogue.[25]

Nepal-India finally schedule a meeting: After the nine-months long tiff between Nepal and India, the two countries have finally scheduled a high-level meeting to discuss India-funded projects in Nepal. The conference is seen as a first step to ease the tension. Foreign Minister Gyawali said even though the boundary issue is not the subject of discussion, it cannot be neglected forever.[26]

Indian Army donates ten ventilators: On August 9, Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra donated ten ventilators on behalf of Indian Army to the Nepal Army given the pandemic. Sukeertimaya Rastradeep General Purna Chandra Thapa, Chief of Army Staff, Nepali Army received the ventilators in a ceremony held at Nepali Army Headquarters. Ambassador Mohan reiterated India’s unconditional support to Nepal in fighting the virus.[27]

Formation of Nepal-Ireland Chamber of Commerce: On August 8, Nepali Ambassador to Ireland Durga Bahadur Subedi announced the formation of the Nepal-Ireland Chamber of Commerce under the leadership of a renowned entrepreneur, Vincent Barry. Ambassador Subedi expressed that the establishment would invite and promote Irish investments in Nepal. Barry further added that this step would strengthen the bilateral trade, and he will actively work towards it.[28]

Strife over Buddha’s nationality: On August 8,External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar claimed Buddha was born in India after which India’s Ministry of External Affairs clarified that Jaishankar was referring to the shared Buddhist culture between Nepal-India. Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs soon issued a statement asserting on archaeological evidence which supports the ‘undeniable fact’ that Buddha was born in Lumbini. Jaishankar’s careless claim invited unrest and controversy in Nepal as netzines took to social media to criticise him.[29]

Nepal to review its Foreign Policy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reviewing its foreign policy and relations with China, India, and western countries given the changing dynamics of international politics. MoFa has already prepared the blueprint and is expecting to get it endorsed within a month. Minister Gyawali’s meetings with the ambassadors and experts were also to collect their opinion for the same.[30]

Nepal-UK establish a trade forum: Following the meetings held by entrepreneurs, businesspersons, and investors in the UK, a UK-Nepal trade and investment forum was formed. Dr Durga Bahadur Subedi, Nepali ambassador to the UK, was appointed the patron. During the inaugural ceremony, Dr Subedi stated that the forum could be a breakthrough for the trade and investment relations between the two countries.[31]

Security

The national COVID-19 tally of reaches 24,432 with 91 recorded deaths: 33 people died in a week from August 5 to August 12 due to COVID-19. The deaths occurred in Kathmandu, Morang, Parsa, Dhanusha, Dharan, Lalitpur, Sarlahi, Pokhara, Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhupalchowk, and Butwal. August 12 saw the highest number of casualties with eight COVID-19 deaths.

According to the Health Ministry, 473,179 PCR tests have been performed in the country and 16,728 individuals have made successful recoveries from the virus as of August 12. Furthermore, districts of Solukhumbu, Sankhuwasabha, Manang, Mustang, Dolpa and Humla, don’t have any active cases.

Infection reaches community stage in Rautahat: According to reports, spread of the COVID-19 virus has reached the community level in Rautahat. Health workers have repeatedly stressed the need for contact tracing and mass testing. The identified infected individuals have been transferred to isolation ward. However, they are facing difficulty in receiving treatment due to the lack of beds and equipment.[32]

183 health workers test positive for COVID-19: According to the health ministry, 183 health workers have tested positive for the virus across Nepal. Since the pandemic began unfolding in the country, local authorities and various hospitals have reported the lack of safety equipment for health workers. “Eight of them are from Province 1, 78 from Province 2, 16 from Bagmati Province, 20 from Gandaki Province, 12 from Province 5, 22 from Karnali Province and 27 from Sudurpaschim Province”.[33]

Lockdown measures enforced after alarming rise in number of cases: There has been an alarming rise in the number of cases only three weeks after the four month long lockdown was lifted. Although a nationwide lockdown has not been enforced, various restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles have been imposed as lockdown measures following the rise in number of cases.[34]

Gender, Social Inclusion, Human Rights, and Migration

Suicide rate surging in Sudurpaschim: 551 sucide cases were registered in the fiscal year 2019/20 in the Sudurpaschim province. The rate of suicide has been accelerating since the past four years, nonetheless the highest number was registered this year. It has increased by 16%. There is a thin difference in the number of men and women committing suicide.[35]

ICJ recommends firming up of inclusive commission: As the various constitutionally established inclusive commissions are working on depleted capacity, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) recommends the country to provide sufficient funds and human resources for their independent operation. The report ‘Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Federal Nepal’ suggests that recruitment of the human resources should be done immediately and kept in high-priority. Also, fairness and transparency should be maintained along with no political influence in the process of appointing employees in several commissions.[36]

License of child care centre impounded: The National Child Rights Council confiscated the license of the Orphanage in Kapan and rescued eleven children living there on August 5. The Child Care Shelter breached the legal provisions regarding the running of a Child Care Shelter. The Owner of the shelter was found involved in a controversial act of rescuing an abandoned baby. However, the act was pre-planned to seek media attention and gather funds from several institutions as well as individuals.[37]

A mutilated body discovered in Gongabu: A suitcase with a beheaded man’s body was discovered near Ganeshthan in Gongabu on August 9. The head of the deceased was discovered 300 m away from where the suitcase was found. A probe team including police and forensic doctors carried out the investigation and sent the body for autopsy to TU teaching Hospital.[38] The perpetrator was arrested on August 10 from Chitwan who confessed the gruesome murder was an act of revenge.[39]

6,000 application received for free evacuation: Six thousand migrant workers became unemployed in nine destination countries. The concerned embassies in the respective countries received application for their evacuation. The evacuation of these migrant workers are done using the fund allocated for it and following the guideline on repatriation of stranded in foreign land.[40]

Provincial and Local Governments

Coronavirus Response: Due to the absence of Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai and the fact that CMCC of Province 1 falls under the jurisdiction of the chief minister, the activities of the center have been affected. The COVID-19 patients are staying in home quarantine due to lack of isolation beds and centers. Despite the decision to set up 200 isolation beds in Koshi Hospital at Biratnagar, the work has been halted due to the absence of the CM.[41] However, CM Rai organized a virtual meeting on August 11 with concerned bodies—provincial representatives, security forces, and medical experts—and came up with decision to make more strategies for Coronavirus control.[42]

On August 8, Chief Minister of Province 2 Lalbabu Raut’s team urged the CCMC of the federal government to bring a special package in the province to control and prevent the possible spread of Coronavirus. Raut also urged the administration and security agencies to work more efficiently and tighten the Nepal-India border. The CM suggested to set up a minimum of 20% isolation beds in each private health institutes for the control and prevention of COVID-19.[43]

On August 10, a meeting of the Municipality Mayors Forum of Metropolitan City of Kathmandu Valley decided to shut down all non-essential services for three weeks. The Forum also urged the government to close public transport, because Coronavirus is spreading at community levels because of public transport. The Forum also requested the government to tighten the entry points to Kathmandu Valley.[44]

Narayan Sub-Regional Hospital case: The doctors associated with hospitals in the Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital formulated a guideline for the Coronavirus response. In the guideline, doctors concluded that there is a lack of coordination among responsible persons, concerned bodies, and among the three tiers of government. Coronavirus cases are increasing at the community level in Parsa. 45 health workers including doctors and nurses at Narayani Hospital have been infected with the virus so far.[45]

On August 9, locals vandalized the Narayani Hospital claiming that the concerned bodies did not take any action against the hospital when patients died due to lack of treatment. On August 7, a 20-year old woman died when she refused treatment even after visiting half a dozen hospitals. The Hospital has shut down all services except emergency due to increasing Coronavirus patients and shortage of doctors.[46]

Subsequently, 350 health workers and staff from Narayani Sub-Regional Hospital resigned en masse demanding security. Despite resignation, the health workers are providing treatment. The resigning group demanded that the concerned body should take action against the group who vandalized the hospital premises and the government should add more manpower in the hospital as well.[47]


[1] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48694/2020-08-06

[2] https://www.setopati.com/politics/213221

[3] https://www.setopati.com/politics/213251

[4] http://annapurnapost.com/news/163230

[5] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48989/2020-08-10

[6] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/08/11/396677/

[7] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48758/2020-08-07

[8] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48805/2020-08-07

[9] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48892/2020-08-09

[10] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/08/09/nepali-congress-likely-to-postpone-its-14th-general-convention

[11] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/48993/2020-08-10

[12] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/08/11/15971083858386702.html

[13] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/08/888714

[14] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/08/888259

[15] https://www.setopati.com/politics/213430

[16] https://en.setopati.com/political/153652

[17] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/home-minister-blames-neighbours-encroaching-policy-for-border-disputes.html

[18] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/nepal-extends-suspension-on-flights-until-sept-1.html

[19] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/ciaa-chief-commissioner-tests-positive-for-covid-19/

[20] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/08/11/everything-you-need-to-know-about-monday-s-cabinet-decisions-on-covid-19-containment-measures

[21] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/05/117565/

[22] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/05/117550/

[23] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/07/118042/

[24] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/07/118127/

[25] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/08/10/government-is-pursuing-alternative-channels-to-end-impasse-with-delhi

[26] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/08/10/nepal-and-india-officials-to-hold-high-level-meeting-on-august-17

[27] https://zeenews.india.com/india/indian-army-gifts-10-icu-ventilators-to-nepali-army-to-tackle-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-2301633.html

[28] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/09/118516/

[29] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/09/118564/

[30] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/11/119014/

[31] https://english.khabarhub.com/2020/11/118971/

[32] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/covid-spreads-at-community-level-in-rautahat/

[33] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/183-health-workers-test-positive/

[34] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/08/12/nepal-braces-for-a-return-to-locked-down-life-as-rise-in-covid-19-cases-rings-alarm-bells

[35] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/16-rise-in-suicide-cases-in-sudurpaschim.html?fbclid=IwAR1U8EkJfDdjDY9iCGzIrcdRFza1mQgtrGfz-avgXtgJQLX-LBaJTj0Fxng

[36] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/08/07/international-court-of-jurists-recommends-nepal-give-full-shape-to-inclusive-commissions?fbclid=IwAR1o98NzesV98S5Z4ueoRza0Eh3Pb_cwZAflZaxOa6FyVQQ9BtTxT1WuBB4

[37] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/licence-of-child-care-home-seized/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1GVC-UX5FajIX_luTZTXiH7MNRyauTAwIvGokbEg-c9yZrncBAK6ZY_2A#Echobox=1596765151

[38] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/mans-dismembered-body-found-in-gongabu/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1daB8TAQo4pm6zLLIA7oks2EK0xOKN7G4Vcynj5vcMsa6vy6l9_VOHuxc#Echobox=1597025828

[39] https://kathmandupost.com/kathmandu/2020/08/11/woman-arrested-for-killing-a-man-and-dismembering-the-body-found-in-gongabu

[40] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/6000-migrants-apply-for-free-rescue-from-abroad/?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3P0hoBtLRc-nh6TBgzR-NUGcRYrZGzvr9-3_IjmzlANnEBeZr6I-UlX3A#Echobox=1596781224

[41] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/08/887151

[42] http://annapurnapost.com/news/163437

[43] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/08/888253

[44] https://thahakhabar.com/news/105030

[45] https://thahakhabar.com/news/105040

[46] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2020/08/888100

[47] http://annapurnapost.com/news/163460

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