Nepal is on the cusp of a Covid-19 catastrophe. As of this writing, daily reported new infections have climbed to 7,500, with nearly 3,500 total deaths. The actual numbers, on both counts, could be much higher. This is the time for every conscionable Nepali citizen and organization to help the country tackle the deadly virus and prevent unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods. The private sector, in this regard, has failed its duty. A part of it may also have been involved in a criminal act of disrupting vital vaccination supplies.
Asked about the delay in import of Indian vaccines, Health Minister Hridesh Tripathi had replied some time ago that at least a million more doses of the Covishield would already have been imported if not for some meddlesome ‘middlemen’. These people were using their clout, both in India and Nepal, to disrupt supplies. They wanted to import the vaccines at a 10 percent mark-up, an offer the ministry declined. So, a bunch of selfish businessmen has been denying life-saving vaccines to hundreds of thousands of Nepalis.
If so, these unconscionable middlemen who wanted to profit from the misery of their brethren must be brought to book and barred from all future government-related contracts. A dangerous precedent could be set if no action is taken against such blatant disregard of people’s health and wellbeing. That said, Minister Tripathi’s admission also suggested the weakness, if not collusion, of our state mechanisms. The reality is that the federal government has failed in Covid management right from the start of the contagion in Nepal back in March 2020.
Prime Minister KP Oli must clear the bottlenecks in the import of vaccines and save further embarrassment to his government. It is upon him to back his thoughtful speech to the country on April 29 on corona-control with urgent action. On the line is not just his political legacy, but also the lives of millions of Nepalis.