As a Covid-19 surge continues unabated in Nepal, a cross-party group of MPs has written a letter to the Foreign Secretary to raise concerns about the UK government’s failure so far to provide comprehensive emergency support, including vaccines, despite the threat of significant loss of life, and the potential for new variants to emerge. The MPs call for the UK government “to act immediately to announce and implement comprehensive Covid-19 support for Nepal”, including taking a lead “to ensure vaccines are delivered soon”.
According to WHO, Nepal currently has the highest Covid-19 reproduction rate in the world, prompting the UN to put out a call for $83.7 million to help manage the crisis. Only 7.3% of the population has received one vaccine dose, with 2.5% having received both doses as of June 1, 2021. The Nepali health system has been unable to cope as patients are turned away from overcrowded hospitals and many die for lack of oxygen and ventilators.
This urgent appeal comes in the wake of an official letter on May 30 to Her Majesty the Queen from Nepal’s President Ms Bidhya Bhandari, requesting vaccines for Nepal, and a direct appeal to the UK for vaccines and other support from Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Oli on June 4 on BBC Radio 4, and BBC News, which highlighted the long ties between the UK and Nepal, most obvious in the Gurkha regiments of the UK army.
Despite the long, deep relationship between the two countries, the UK government has so far been notably slow to respond, delivering just one oxygen plant, which appears to have been part of prior programming, and on May 28 limited medical materials, much of which was donated from UK medical institutions.
The cross-party MPs who have signed the letter are Mike Amesbury MP; Kirsty Blackman MP; Sarah Champion MP; Allan Dorans MP; Neale Hanvey MP; Patrick Grady MP; Chris Law MP; Caroline Lucas MP; Kenny MacAskill MP; Stewart McDonald MP; Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP; Tommy Sheppard MP; Zarah Sultana MP; Alison Thewliss MP; Claudia Webbe MP; Mick Whitley MP. They represent five political parties: Conservative; Labour; SNP; Green; Alba; and one independent parliamentarian.