Your Excellency the Ambassador of Nepal,
1. How do you feel in face of the corona pandemic?
As we all know, almost all the countries in the world, today, are facing a critical and terrible situation due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Around 1.4 million people are infected from Novel Corona virus till date out of which more than 85 thousand people all around the world, have already lost their life leaving many in an underlying situation. However, we have to take our every step wisely without getting panic on ourselves conveying information to all the Nepalese residing in Israel and Cyprus that the Embassy of Nepal is committed enough to take every possible and necessary step in welfare of the aforementioned. Ambassador is the Guardian of her/his every citizen. But, I also understand that my responsibility is not limited to a certain genre but to a number of people related to any work including, of course, the Embassy staffs. At this moment, everyone needs encouragement, motivation and cooperation. The Embassy has been corresponding to its receiving countries via emails and phone. Despite, Corona virus created such a situation that stopped our movement, stopped all exchange of Visits, conducting meetings, signing Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and agreements and so on confining our activities within our community via phone call, email and social media. I am worried that this situation will have direct impact on our economy. So, we need to plan to manage our economy. In recent days, we are conducting video conferences, call conferences, webinars with the Governments and people of Nepal, Israel and Cyprus (high level officials from concerned authorities, private sectors, chamber of commerce, Nepali and Israeli communities etc. It has halted our life and inhibited enhancing our relations as we cannot meet anyone. In the meantime, this is a brilliant idea that Ambassadors’ Club of Israel has brought via which we can be able to share our notions and thoughts.
2. What is the situation in Nepal?
Currently, Nepal has reported nine cases of Covid 19, including one local transmission which has taken the country into stage 2 of the pandemic. In which two cases are recovered and others are in mild condition. But we are worried about future.
At the first step, Government of Nepal announced temporary bans on all flights, all long haul transportation across the country and all non-essential services from March 22 to March 31. Second step took by the government to halt incoming passengers from 55 countries, other passengers have to be quarantine as they arrive Nepal, postponement of the nation-wide Secondary Education Examinations, and a ban on all gatherings of more than 25 people. Further the new announcement regarding a halt to all international arrivals including Nepalese. Now, Nepal is in complete lockdown since 2 weeks and it is extended to April 15. We have cancelled all flights, seized border and restricted the internal movement. It has helped us significantly to prevent the rapid spread of this virus. Our Rt. Honorable Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli urged Nepalese abroad to exercise patience and reach out to Nepali missions in the respective countries. He said, “Safeguarding life is the most important human right.”
He announced the creation of a new agency, the “Corona Crisis Management Center” to coordinate, oversee and act on a war-footing to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Quarantine facilities houses for 30,566 people have been built across the country. At present, 9,168 people are in quarantine while 95 people are undergoing treatment in isolation. Nepal Government coordinated with the Indian Government to keep Nepalese returning from India in quarantine. Around 2,147 Nepalese are kept in quarantine on the Indian side and over 700 Indian nationals are in quarantine in Nepal. Those who are in quarantine at the Nepal-India border will be allowed to return home once their quarantine ends and they undergo some tests. The government did not allow them to enter Nepal due to risk of transmission. The government had dispatched 1,048 sets of personal protective equipment, 11,819 gowns, 4,345 N-95 masks and 5,65,261 surgical masks to all seven provinces; and 75,000 testing kits. The more test carried out where a majority cases are located. Nepal has launched COVID-19 website and Mobile App.
Looking to this crisis, we are lacking medical equipments like PPE, PCR test kits, N95 masks, infra red thermometer, ventilators etc. The lower number of cases may also be due to the lack of such testing kits. Some Nepali entrepreneurs are producing few materials but it is not sufficient. Central, provincial and local Governments and People are working hand in hand to fight this situation. Government of Nepal and Nepali people are treating foreigners too with no discrimination. Our culture is – “Guests are like Deities.”
During the Video conference of all the heads of missions based in Israel with competent Israeli officials, we got the request of the Government of Israel to repatriate Israelis which we have forwarded to Nepal Government and Nepal is willing to support. Nepal is looking forward to get support from the Government of Israel as we received at the time of earthquake 2015. We still have warm memory of that wonderful support. It is obvious that all countries are combating the same problem at the very moment. We can’t help each other though we are eager to do it because we are stuck at our own place. However, like a silver line in clouds, there is always a hope of beautiful light in any hard time. I am hopeful the day is not very far that we will be out of this situation.
3. What is your role, today, as Nepali ambassador to Israel and Cyprus and how do you and your team operate in time of isolation?
We have to be optimistic. It is important that the leader should be healthy and inspirational for everybody. So, we are working but with care.
We are working with skeletal staffs only since the last week. We have granted leave to local staffs and allowed them to work from home.
We are taking part in video conferences, call conferences, webinars with both the Governments, high level officials and concerned authorities, private sectors, chamber of commerce, and of course, Nepali and Israeli communities.
We have formed a volunteering committee that looks after the Nepali people facing problem. I am lucky that I have many Israeli friends here and they are always ready to help which make me so comfortable. They don’t even let me feel that I am not with my family. Yet, we don’t see much problem within Nepali communities in Israel but may exist in future as some of them are staying together. Also, there are problems with Nepali community in Cyprus. We are exercising more to rescue them if they will have problem.
We are publishing notice, rules and regulations through our official media to inform Nepali community residing in Israel and Cyprus.
I have already mentioned that there is more problem In Cyprus. However, Nepal Embassy is corresponding with the Government of Cyprus and striving jointly to tackle the problems in coordination with the Honorary Consulate of Nepal, Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) and some other organizations there in terms of health, security, food etc.
We should be exuberant instead of getting panicked and depressed. Virus reminded us how fragile and mortal we are as life. There is no option than fighting collectively with this pandemic.
I would urge to be grateful to whatever you have and be gentle with this time.
4. Do you have a message to the Israelis?
I found Israelis are very educated and smart and they know how to maintain the social distance which is the only way to combat spread out of Covid 19 pandemic. In one hand, it may temporarily degrade our economy, business etc. But we can again upgrade it with our efforts and hardwork.
On the other, I see some positive scenarios. People are realizing how important the relations are, how valuable our families, relatives and friends are. It has taught us the lesson how difficult the social distance is. Families, neighbors, friends are getting emotionally closer because of this created distance. They are remembering and understanding each other. Children are happy with their parents and grandparents sitting and eating together. They are learning the culture. People are donating and distributing whatever they have. There is less pollution as well.
Nowadays, people became so busy that they forget even with whom they are living. This situation is providing us the opportunity to think more pragmatically about our past lives and our history and move forward with a renewed intuition.
I am alone here and all of my family members are in Nepal. But, I don’t think that I am with my subordinates, and my assistants. Rather, I take them as my family members and I am running my daily life with them as well as with my Israeli friends happily here.
The virus doesn’t look after rich or poor, of what religion, or political parties, and so on. Further, it may not be necessary to say more to Israelis, just to remind that “National Unity is the most important thing, this term is necessary everywhere in the world. Everyone has to contribute from the same ground and join hands to solve this problem.
There must be the availability of necessary medical equipment to the frontliners and public service providers. Public need to cooperate with the government by listening and following the rules and regulations whatsoever is decided for the betterment of whole humanity.
Be brave and keep patience. It is obvious that this situation will not remain forever.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy.
Anjan Shakya, Ph.D
Ambassador of Nepal to Israel