The Time of Covid-19
When the virus was first heard of in Nepal back in January 2020, most people did not even think that this virus was going to come to Nepal too. The previous story of SARS and Swine Flu hardly made an impact in Nepal, hence, people did not listen much and were somewhat overconfident thinking we were isolated and immune. It wasn’t until China and India, our northern and southern neighbors, were hit badly that the WHO declared the situation a pandemic.
As the countries started their lock down, Nepal followed. Still it was not too serious until the first positive case was detected. So many people and countries still thought Nepali people were resistance to this virus, with lots of speculation and stories that was created even in my home country. People returning from the Gulf countries and people coming in from India ended up carrying the virus and the Covid-19 began to spread. We were locked down tightly with curfews with limited movement outside of our homes. Even so, cases rapidly increased and people were dying, sending a serious alarm to the government and people.
As of September 1st, more than 228 people have lost their life and there are some 39K cases, and some 60% of infected individuals have recovered.
The lockdown was lifted after three months, and it was a great relief for many including my family. My daughter’s college education was curtailed and my wife ran out of new recipes to try on us. Yet, the outbreaks of the virus continued. There were high hopes that the lockdown would have all been worth it and people could get back to work and resume their goals. Sadly, the virus is still going strong infecting more and more people, forcing government to impose yet another lockdown. All public transportation has ground to a halt and with it many businesses have been shut down completely. Apart from food goods and medicines and other essentials.
It is obvious now that the era of Covid-19 is will be around for an uncertain period of time, creating even more and more global health and financial challenges. Life for the whole world is upside down.
Impact of Covid-19 in Nepal
Day by day its becoming extremely challenging and difficult in Nepal due to the lack of proper health and management resources. Big business, politicians and government employees seem to be thriving, while most of the people are enduring hardship from lack of funds and adequate food and shelter. Many, many people have fled Kathmandu to go back to their villages. Without any transportation, these people walked sometimes months with little food and water to sustain their journey. It was hard to witness. Many are back to farming but have long forgotten the skills necessary to farm well.
With the prolonged lockdown, more and more will be extremely challenged. It pushed us further and further back, and it looks like it will take a long time to recover. One wonders, why is it that the politicians and institutions seem to benefit in a time of crisis? People who are not sick with the virus are not able to get care. Others are forced to take expensive treatments or give up. There are so many examples like pregnant women who lost their lives and the baby’s life simply because they were denied medical help or could not reach the hospital because there was no transportation.
I know these stories are happening around the world. It pains me to see such disregard for my people. It has been extremely emotional and unbearable to witness. It breaks my heart.
The Tourism Sector
The hardest hit sector in Nepal is tourism. Nepal is a country that is an exotic destination for many seekers of adventure and culture. Hundreds of thousands of employees and employers connected with tourism are badly impacted economically and are in a serious financial crises. So many people are dependent on daily wages in the cities generated by the influx of tourists. Not only do we look forward to the business, we look forward to the return of old friends and meeting of new ones.
It was just the beginning of the spring and summer tourist season, when the lockdown started. Last fall (Oct & Nov 2019) was good but the winter months (Dec & Jan) being the off season were down. You can imagine we were all excited and looking forward to the bookings we had beginning in early spring. Typically March and April are really busy. The tourism in Nepal is seasonal and the season mainly last for five to six months year so people involved in tourism have to live for other 6 months with the earning they made during the season. The virus has undermined so many.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Nature-Treks www.nature-treks.com
The story with us here at Nature Treks is no different. We are a small adventure company that has had to lay off our guides and support staff. Communities along the program routes depend on us and this has hurt them as well.
We are now nine months without any earnings, and life from this vantage point is uncertain. I don’t know when the country will open up again for tourists. The fall and winter 2020 season is closed for now and 2021 is uncertain. We are hopeful that tourism will again pick up, and when it does, I will be left the challenge of finding skilled staff to work, as my staff has already left for their villages.
As the company founder and director, it makes me so sad not to be able to support and help my loyal staff and support communities. As the lockdown continues, the government still insists on collecting their taxes and rent still needs to be paid. This is a hard time.
Chitwan National Park, where I worked for so many years, used to get lots of nature and wildlife enthusiastic, researchers and ornithologists but now its so empty. It even seems like the animals are missing the humans. On the positive side, the animals and birds are breathing a sigh of relief being left alone in their natural environment. The forests and its wildlife are recovering their habitat. However, without vigilance from staff in the park it leaves way for all the negative elements with the lurking danger of poachers and trappers. There are few people to stop them.
Having lived through the insurgency and an earthquake and now the virus, my resilience is taxed, but I preserve because I must. The soul of the Nepali people is intact and our faith is strong and there is still a song in our hearts. Today as I write, I send you many heartfelt blessings for your health and safety, as we all endure this time.
Until next time.. Stay safe and well!