Since the second wave of Covid-19 has hit Nepal, concerns have arisen as the Pandemic has seemingly exceeded uncontrollable rates. People around Nepal and the current Prime Minister are urging supportive nations for medical assistance.
Unlike other countries, Nepal does not have access to a lot of state-of-the-art medical machinery. A lot of hospitals around Nepal lack basic hospital necessities, most hospitals even lack the availability of ventilators.
In recent figures delivered by Health experts from Nepal, from all the Covid-19 tests conducted, around 44% of the tests have come back Covid-19 positive, which is quite alarming. Health experts have also stated that from every 100,000 people, 20 of them are Covid-19 positive. These results are similar to what India was showing earlier before the current breakout. Experts have also said that the surge of cases in Nepal is due to the massive increase in cases in India, as both countries join borders.
The two countries, India and Nepal share an open border, and citizens from both countries are not required to hold a visa to travel from Nepal to India and vice versa. Citizens of Nepal have said that due to the open borders, the surge from India has made its way towards Nepal, and unless the virus is controlled in India, Nepal will have to face similar damage. Border security of Nepal has also added to this that Indian’s have been traveling to Nepal in huge numbers to get medical treatment and to turn their backs against the Covid-19 situation in India, Indian’s were seeing Nepal as a safe house from India’s current outbreak. But people of Nepal on the other hand think that this is the major reason for the current increase of cases in Nepal.
A question arises, why doesn’t Nepal close its border activities during the Pandemic? When asked from concerned officials, they have answered that it isn’t easy to completely stop the border activities as a vast majority of people from both countries travel almost every day through these borders, though, Border officials have seized 22 entry/exit points from the 35 border points. Only 13 are open for Nepal citizens and Indians to enter or exit Nepal. Nepal’s Foreign minister has also imposed strict rules for people who are willing to enter the country through these entry points, a person must test negative before they are allowed entry into the country, anyone who has been tested positive at the border test sites will have to either quarantine themselves at a quarantine facility or visit a hospital, they will still not be allowed entry unless they test negative after the quarantine period.
Government Officials from Nepal have imposed strict lockdowns around various cities in Nepal, even the Capital Kathmandu has been locked down. Even after the lockdown, health experts have said that the measures were taken too late, the virus has already entered the country and is spreading like wildfire.
So who is to blame for Nepal’s current situation?
Health experts who are currently studying the reasons for why the virus has started spreading at such huge numbers have said that earlier in April, The Prime Minister of Nepal, K.P Sharma Oli said during a Political gathering that the Nepali population has a much stronger immune system than the rest of the world since Nepali’s consume a lot of spicy food and spices are a cure to this disease, which is completely false. Nepali’s were also seen ignoring all precautionary measures and attending huge festivals with gatherings of thousands among thousands of people. The Hindu population of Nepal has been seen celebrating huge festivals during the Pandemic, even after being warned by the Authorities, The Nepali’s continued their rituals for days and days and a few chanted that these festivals are more important to us, even more than our lives. Wedding ceremonies and Birthday parties which carried a large number of people were also taking place day and night in Nepal, because of which the virus has reached this phase.
On April 24, 2021, Prime Minister Oli inaugurated the rebuilt Dharahara tower, which was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake. During the inauguration, many people from around Nepal gathered to witness the event, 2,400 cases were reported a day before the inauguration. Less than a week after the inauguration, Covid-19 cases doubled, this raged the health experts quite a lot, and the Prime minister had to impose a two-week lockdown in Kathmandu.
After this event, health experts and doctors from Nepal said that the current situation of Covid-19 is Nepal has already reached an uncontrollable state, as Nepal does not have sufficient medical supplies to treat every patient and hospitals are already marked full, Nepal will face a huge impact both economically and physically if the virus spreads any further.
People from Nepal are now seen showing anger towards the government and most people from Nepal are saying that the government is too busy with their political issues rather than controlling the spread of this disease. Health experts have also said similarly that Nepal had a chance to impose multiple precautionary measures to control the virus after the outbreak in its neighboring country, India. The government could have imposed strict countrywide lockdowns and all transports crossing borders should have been put on hold, anyone who was willing to enter the country should have been ordered to quarantine themselves for 2 weeks before they were allowed entry into the country, but the government has not taken any such steps for which the Nepali’s are now facing the consequences.
The situation of Nepal’s hospitals is extremely poor. Nepal is labeled as one of the poorest countries in the world. This also shadows the healthcare system in Nepal. Even in the first wave of the Pandemic, when cases were quite low, Nepal still had a shortage of beds and doctors. And now, after the outbreak of the second wave, Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and Doctors are advising people with minor symptoms to quarantine themselves at home. A report tells us that Nepal only has a little over 1,550 intensive care beds and around 500 ventilators across Nepal. The ratio of doctors from its 30 million population is also very low. The Nepali army has released a notice that all retired health workers of the army might be called back for health assistance at any time and has advised them to be ready at all times.
Has the Government taken any steps yet?
The government of Nepal has started to move quite fast after being blamed by thousands of health experts from India and Nepal. Nepal has a huge shortage of medical oxygen cylinders, the government considered this quite quickly and has ordered 20,000 oxygen cylinders from various countries. A healthcare facility is also being built at the border for quarantining and treating returnees who are coming back from India. An isolation center is also being built in the Sudurpashchim Province. The isolation center will have the facility to contain 2,000 patients and 200 isolated wards for serious patients. The government has also taken steps in improving the speed of how quickly the tests will be conducted by building testing sites around Nepal and sending samples to Hong Kong for quick results. Currently, Nepal is delivering a little over 20,000 results every day. In the case of vaccines, Nepal has been pretty slow in vaccinating their population, only 7.2% people out of the 30 million population have received the first dose.
The situation in Nepal will worsen before it starts to get any better, said health experts. People should be calm and isolate themselves at home and obey the restrictions, as a lockdown is not enough for fighting such a huge spread, but people should follow all precautionary measures and safety guidelines to overcome this Pandemic.
As reported by health experts, it is said that another festival is on its way which the Nepali people celebrate with pride and joy every year, but it is advised that this year, either don’t celebrate any festivals which cause gatherings or if it’s that important, at least wear masks and keep social-distancing in-mind. The government was also questioned that why the government has allowed the people to celebrate festivals in such cases, to which officials answered that we are tired of telling the people, again and again, it is now in the hands of the Nepali’s population whether they control the disease or spread it further.
Health experts are also concerned about the people who migrated from the Capital city of Kathmandu to their villages after the lockdown, as they could be carriers of the virus and distant villages have little to no health care systems. Numbers could be at an alarming rate if people from the outskirts of Nepal are tested as they have no access to hospitals or any medical facilities, the virus could be spreading like a forest fire in these areas and something should be done about the village areas as well.