The COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC) formed by the government to coordinate the fight against pandemic has almost become obsolete.
The body led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwore Pokharel and including nine other ministers initially was formed by the Cabinet on March 29 and took almost all the decisions about the fight against the coronavirus which would be taken to the Cabinet for endorsement.
The CCMC, with its secretariat at the Rangers Battalion of Nepal Army in Chhauni, is now limited to mere collection of the data about infected persons, according to an expert doctor with the CCMC, with the Health Ministry doing the medical works and the security agencies doing theirs on their own.
While the steering committee of CCMC used to meet regularly earlier it met only on September 14 after August 19, and its recommendations are ignored by the Cabinet nowadays.
A minister confided with Setopati that the CMC's role may have shrunk also due to its failure to do anything significant. "There is also no way it can take autonomous decision. Its relevance, therefore, has almost ended," the minister stated.
Another expert told Setopati that CCMC has not seemed effective also due to lack of coordination between the CCMC and the Health Ministry. "We have prepared maps marking the places where it has spread in the community. Work should have been done accordingly. But the Health Ministry did not show any interest about that," the expert claimed.
Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr Jageshwore Gautam claimed that the ministry is coordinating with the CCMC, but indirectly undermined the joint body pointing that the most effective body to fight the pandemic is the ministry. "I believe that we should work by making the existing organs stronger instead of creating an organ that is not recognized by the system," Dr Gautam said.
Pointing that many in support of CCMC slammed the ministry accusing it of failure to work effectively while giving credit to CCMC for whatever work was done, he implied that the CCMC has no use when there is the government and Cabinet to do the necessary works. "It is the ministry's job to project about the disease, not CCMC's. "No matter how much one may brag of being a big expert but who has the human resources that the Health Ministry has?"
Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers Mahendra Guragai, who is also the CCMC secretary, said that the CCMC can soon take a decision considering the movement of people during the upcoming Dashain festival and the state of infection. Pointing that the ministries concerned are doing their respective works making it appear that the CCMC is not working, he claimed that its role and relevance, however, have not ended.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattari, who is in the CCMC, pointed that the CCMC meetings are being held on the basis of needs and it is preparing proposals to take to the Cabinet. Agriculture Minister Ghanashyam Bhusal, who is also part of the CCMC, said more bodies are not active now as the Cabinet can take all the decisions.
"The CCMC had a bigger role earlier due to health problems of the prime minister. PM's health is normal now and CCMC meetings may have become rare as the Cabinet can take direct decision, and it is easy to take decision when the PM is also there."
Another expert with CCMC, however, claimed that the role of CCMC has shrunk as the government itself does not have any plan. "Looking at the nature of this disease, it seems the problem will remain until an effective vaccine is available. The government, therefore, may have adopted the strategy of facing whatever will come. It looks as if the government has no plans and leaving everything to the God."