India discovered its first 2 cases of Omicron infection on Thursday, Dec 2. Today, the Government of Nepal took a decision to increase surveillance at the Birgunj border, fearing that the variant may spread to Nepal as well.
Placing more restrictive regulations in a single checkpoint does very little to prevent Omicron’s spread. It does, however, impact the economy of Nepal-India traders greatly. This statement rings even truer considering WHO and the Secretary-general of the UN were of the same opinion. Tighter regulations simply mean more complicated rules and procedures for traders to follow, which ultimately results in a low supply and hiked prices of everyday products. This is a trend the Nepalese market has been familiar with since April 2020 when the first nationwide lockdown was announced.
Nepal imports over Rs.700 billion worth of products annually from India alone. This is over 70% of total Nepalese imports. Nepal exports far fewer amount of goods to India. This shows the dependence of the nation on India and how importing so much in today's condition also entails the import of a new variant of the coronavirus. However, there is no immediate alternative, so the import must continue.
Due to unpredictable weather conditions and unexpected rainfall, farmers lost crops and faced food shortages in several parts of Nepal. Such a situation calls for a necessary import of food products from India since Nepal doesn't have enough to feed everyone.
The entire Terai region is at a high risk of infection due to Nepal’s open border with India. Officials are working to prepare plans as Parsa district is at high risk of a new variant of the COVID-19 due to the unrestricted and high amount of movement from both countries.
It is said that the administration is preparing an action plan to take precautions considering the new variant of COVID-19 could enter Nepal in a short time too.
It is unclear what precautions will be adopted, but a lockdown seems highly unlikely. National Economy has just begun recovering, and a lockdown might invite protests and strikes from citizens and trade unions alike. Regardless of what the government does, people should be prepared to face some difficulties.
Individual efforts are mandatory to stop Omicron infections at this point. Even the developed countries in Europe and North America have been unable to contain the virus. Masks and sanitizers are just as important as ever, and work from home should be considered if it is a viable option. Not to mention, vaccines must be administered as soon as possible in order to have enough immunity to resist any possible infections.