Nepal ruling party feud affecting COVID-19 response

As if Nepal did not already have enough on its plate with the economic collapse caused by the global pandemic and a season of floods, its government has been consumed by a never-ending power struggle within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

The whole country is being held hostage by the battle for supremacy between Prime Minister K P Oli and the party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. This has undermined the capacity of the government machinery to deal with the national crisis caused by COVID-19, and now the response to flood and landslide disasters all over the country.

Although the daily COVID-19 caseload nationwide is decreasing, there has been a surge in Kathmandu Valley after the easing of the lockdown, and there are now 290 cases and two fatalities. There were only 39 cases before restrictions were relaxed.

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At a time of such crisis, the ministers in the Coronavirus Control and Management Committee are so busy politicking, they have not even met once since 29 June. “The party is in deep crisis at this very time, and since many of the members of the Committee are Standing Committee members, we were not able to meet,” Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told Nepali Times. “We started out well in managing the disease, but the Committee is distracted at the moment.”

Hopefully, now that the Standing Committee meeting has been put off for a week to let things cool down between Prime Minister Oli and Chairman Dahal, the Coronavirus Committee will meet to decide what to do about the lockdown that is due to end 22 July. Separately, the Cabinet decided on Thursday to allow public transport to operate at 50% capacity with safeguards from this week.

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