Following his failure to be reappointed as Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, in the early hours of May 22, repeated his five-month-old step by dissolving the House of Representatives once more, ushering the nation into elections in the midst of the raging Covid-19 pandemic.
Oli said that this was the only way forward since the House had become obsolete and that holding elections was the only way for the country to move forward. The president then devised a schedule. If the Supreme Court does not overturn this ruling, the elections will be held on November 12 and 19.
While Oli is preoccupied with internal and national politics, the number of cases in Nepal continues to increase. Since the decision to hold the elections, the country has seen over 30,000 cases and nearly 600 deaths. This has created a lot of friction among health workers, who believe that even considering holding elections during the pandemic is not only reckless, but also dumb.
Doctors and medical personnel are concerned because the country’s death toll has more than doubled since April. Covid-19 had killed 3,061 people as of April 14. As of Tuesday (May 25), the figure stood at 6,700.
Experts, referring to Nepal’s southern neighbors, predict that the number will undoubtedly increase if elections are held, owing to the massive campaigning that occurs prior to voting.
Call for crowding
Cases arose in India as the Vidhan Sabha elections were held in different states. According to scientists, the virus spreads rapidly across political conferences and protests because there is little to no social distancing. Related events occurred in Nepal. Oli hosted a program that drew a few thousand people. His opponents, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, staged a protest that drew over 10,000 people. According to experts, these political events, as well as numerous religious festivals and marriage parties held throughout the world, contributed to an increase in Covid-19 cases.
The Oli-led government had promised to vaccinate the entire population within three months. That, however, has proven to be a lie. Not learning from his error, Oli said at a press conference on Sunday that he would ensure that all Nepalis were vaccinated prior to the elections.
However, public health experts say that the chances of this occurring are remote because Nepal currently lacks vaccines. If the government intends to vaccinate the whole population, the vaccinations must arrive in Nepal within the next 45 days. There have been small attempts to obtain some vaccines as of now, but this would not be enough to vaccinate the whole population.
According to Dr. Anup Bastola of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, if the government holds elections in November, Nepal will be struck by the third wave of Covid-19.
“Why can’t they see that the virus spreads faster in a crowded environment? “Here, the government is being irresponsible,” he claims.
Dr. Bimal Pandey agrees with Dr. Bastola and adds that the virus will not be eradicated from the country by November. “If that happens, we will have to declare a health emergency because our fragile health-care system will collapse.”
And the opposition parties are keeping quiet about it. Instead of asking Oli to withdraw his statement, they are all preoccupied with their own political agendas.
“It’s unfortunate that their attention is on politics and elections rather than managing the pandemic,” says Dr Dinesh Kumar Lamsal of Civil Service Hospital.
His concerns are also true, as people in Nepal are dying due to a lack of oxygen, ICU beds, and ventilators. Even though almost the entire country is under lockdown, the number of vital Covid-19 patients is not decreasing.