I’m confused. I spent months at home when Covid-19 infections were in double figures. Now it’s reached five figures, and pushing steadily towards six. And now I am told I can go out to shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, get on buses and domestic planes, and even go trekking!
My mind tells me this is far from over. My logic tells me authorities know it’s not over as schools, bars, cinemas, and large gatherings remain off-limits. But the little devil on my shoulder whispers, “Look! Other people are going out of the city and even to [supposedly closed] bars”. I’m pretty good at ignoring that little devil. Unlike the group of 20-somethings celebrating a birthday in a café yesterday. With the “old normal” hugs and kisses. Then heading out the gate sans mask. Unlike those bar owners who, understandably desperate for income, are advertising themselves as open. We know social distancing just isn’t going to happen there either.
So yes, I’m confused. I was told there were two quarantined households with Covid-19 in the small street a friend lives on. Yet children were running up and down the narrow lane. The majority of Nepali friends I have spoken to have a relative who is Covid-19 positive or sick enough to warrant self-isolation. One friend I spoke to on the phone last week wanted to arrange a meeting. Through general chitchat I discovered his whole family had ‘a flu and sore throat’. Nope, sorry, I’m not meeting you for some time to come. How could you even suggest it?
I do believe some people are just unaware: how much real information is given in Nepali about how to protect yourself and family and on recognising the symptoms? And I also believe others are just burying their heads in the sand. I can understand those who are, shockingly, starving and homeless because they are unable to work and have been thrown out of their homes because they cannot pay rent.
Almost justifiably, they are desperate to ignore the heath implications as they clandestinely sell their merger vegetables at the street corner. But I cannot understand those (not starving btw) who do know the facts yet believe it won’t happen to them, or they just don’t care. They have given in to the little devil on their shoulder.
Then there are those who seem to genuinely believe it’s all a hoax. Yes, those anti-maskers are in Nepal too. Well, I’m sorry, that’s just selfish. Believe what you like but “just in case” it is real, can you wear a frigging mask to save the rest of us? My friend yesterday got it right when he said, “Just because you don’t believe in gravity doesn’t mean you won’t fall when you jump off a building”.
And we are falling. Economically, physically, mentally, the world is falling off that high building. In countries where strict measures are in place, as soon as they—slowly and with a lot of preparedness and thought—opened schools, numbers spiked. That was expected. What was perhaps not was the response of young Europeans (I’m totally discounting America here as it is beyond my comprehension any more) who, feeling frustrated with months of lockdown, are out partying in large numbers.
So perhaps I judge Nepal too harshly if over in Europe governments are having a hard time controlling certain sections of their populations. Despite widespread awareness raising, education, financial support, and strict rules in place.
I’m paying close attention to the opening of international air travel and the expected arrival of tourists in Nepal. Less than one month out, there is no set protocols in place. The reopening of domestic air travel was delayed a few days because authorities and airlines had not put their protocols in place. After six months of potential planning time! And then there are the Dashain holidays that coincide with the scheduled reopening of international flights. A disaster waiting to happen.