Author : Hari Bansh Jha

Expert Speak Health Express
Published on Mar 17, 2020
Global cooperation is the key to tackle and control Coronavirus Till now, the coronavirus or Covid -19, which is also called “Wuhan virus” by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for its origin in China’s Wuhan city, has caused deaths of over 4,000 people. More than 110,000 people in at least 110 countries, including Italy, South Korea, Japan, Iran and the United States, have been infected from this disease. Outside China, 631 people are reported to have been killed by this disease. Though China claims to have somewhat controlled this deadly disease, it is fast spreading in different continents of the world. Being highly concerned, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has called the coronavirus as a pandemic. This is also because the coronavirus outbreak could cost the world economy up to 2 trillion US dollar this year alone. Loss in the tourism sector due to coronavirus is estimated between 30 and 50 billion dollars.  Novel Coronavirus is likely to invite recession in which the annual rate of economic growth might drop below 2.5 per cent. Growth of the world economy could even decelerate to 0.7 to 0.9 per cent in such countries as Canada, Mexico and the Central American region. The oil-exporting countries along with those who largely depend on export trade are being hardest hit. Additionally, the stock exchange markets in different countries are crashing. The fate of South Asia largely depends on the extent to which India could control the coronavirus. In India, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 73. To control the further expansion of this disease, the Indian government has decided to quarantine itself. For this, it has suspended all visas except to the diplomats, United Nations agencies and the international organizations until April 15. Given the suspected presence of coronavirus in Nepal, the Indian government has declared high alert on the Nepal-India border. To ensure that this epidemic does not enter into India through Nepal, the expert team of NDRF, a specialized force in India meant for responding to natural disasters and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence, has now been deployed on the border. Out of Asia, more than 12,000 people have been infected by a coronavirus in Italy where the death toll   has crossed 2000. All the shops except the food marts and medicine shops in this country are closed to check the further expansion of this disease. Furthermore, considering the growing number of coronavirus confirmed cases that infected 1,135 people and killed 38 persons in the USA, the Trump administration has suspended travel from Europe to this country. The Nepalese government for quite some time remained complacent and declared that the country was free from coronavirus disease.  Till recently airlines operating between Nepal and China have were not  stopped amidst the situation in which the scanning system at the crucial border points is far from satisfactory. However, it is feared that Nepal is infected by coronavirus disease. There are reports that some of the Nepalese in the gulf and other countries are already infected. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also put Nepal in the category of the high-risk country for its potentiality to get affected by the coronavirus disease. Subsequently, under internal and external pressure, the government of Nepal has not only set up screening measure at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, but it has also planned to establish health desks at 41 out of 129 land crossing points with India and China. The government has also decided to suspend visa-on-arrival to the nationals of  China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, Germany and Spain. Now onwards, the nationals from these countries will be required to obtain a visa from the Nepali missions abroad beforehand if they desire to visit Nepal. Besides, the Nepalese government has also stopped imports of edible items from China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran as a precautionary measure. People in Nepal have been asked by the government that those infected by coronavirus should go for self-quarantine if they have influenza-like symptoms. Of course, there are a few ICU beds in public and private hospitals, but their number is too small to admit persons infected by coronavirus. What, however, more alarming is the fact that almost all the ICU beds are occupied? In Kathmandu, there  is scarcity of sanitizers, masks and other essential medicines. The supply of cooking gas has also  turned out to be short. People have started hoarding such food items as rice, edible oil, lentils, legumes, flour as they believe that such items would vanish from the market. Prices of such items swelled by at least 25 per cent in a week in Kathmandu. The othe reason for Nepal being affected is  Qatar, which has placed a temporary ban on the arrival of people from 14 countries, including  Nepal, to check the spread of coronavirus. This could affect the livelihood of about 40,000 Nepalese workers as they would not be able to fly to Qatar for jobs. Also, Nepal’s plan to invite two million foreign tourists this year in the wake of “Visit Nepal Year 2020” is sure to meet a big jolt as this event is cancelled on account of coronavirus. Tourist arrivals by air in Nepal dropped by 21 per cent in February. Kathmandu’s tourist hub, Thamel, has taken a deserted look as there are no buyers. Importantly, the occupancy rate in hotels in the country was also reduced by half in January and February. This was mainly on account of the drop in the number of Chinese tourists who form the second largest group of visitors to Nepal. In 2019, the number of Chinese tourists in Nepal accounted for 169,543, which was expected to reach 350,000 in the current year 2020. Also, due to the fear of coronavirus, the number of passengers in the domestic airlines has declined to such an extent that the airline operators are on the verge of grounding their aircraft. As per the estimate made by Manila-based Asian Development Bank, Nepal is likely to shave off up to 13 per cent of its gross domestic product and loss of jobs 15,880 jobs due to coronavirus. As coronavirus is pandemic, its impact is severe in most of the countries of the world. Loss of life and wealth due to this disease is irreparable. So far there is no discovery of medicine that could address this lethal disease. Once again it is proved that the world is a global village in which the geographical boundary could hardly check the flow of coronavirus from one country to the other. This is the reason that in such a short period, the disease has almost engulfed all important parts of the world. If this problem has to be resolved, people and governments the world over need to cooperate to ensure each other’s survival and transcend the danger. This is also true of the South Asian region in which Nepal and other countries of this region need to develop a common strategy with India to address this disease.
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Hari Bansh Jha

Hari Bansh Jha

Hari Bansh Jha is a Visiting Fellow at ORF. Formerly a professor of economics at Nepal's Tribhuvan University, Hari Bansh’s areas of interest include, Nepal-China-India strategic ...

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