Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

As COVID cases surge in India, Nepal sounds safety alarm


By Sampada A. Khatiwada

Kathmandu, Mar. 23: The infection rate of the novel coronavirus was declining markedly in the nation in recent times with less than a thousand infections reported in a week. But the dramatic surge of virus cases in India has heightened the possibility of Nepal being hit by the second wave of the pandemic.

Considering the possibilities of a surge in the cases in upcoming days, Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), on Sunday issued a press statement urging the public to not hold or participate in any gatherings, rallies, and seminars.

Dr. Gautam also appealed to everyone to strictly follow all the government-prescribed public health protocols.

Meanwhile, public health experts have urged the government to adopt effective measures promptly by learning from the past in order to avoid the entry of new variants of the virus from India.

Dr. Rabindra Pandey, a public health specialist, said, “According to the health experts in India, the number of new UK-variant virus is high in India. Likewise, other strains from Africa and Brazil are also prevalent there.”

“If these variants enter Nepal from the open border it shares with India, the situation here could be grave,” said Dr. Pandey, adding, “The government must make efforts to conduct Rapid Antigen Tests and Polymerase Chain Reaction Tests at all border points right from today .”

Well-facilitated quarantines and isolation centres must be established to accommodate the returnees from India, said Dr. Pandey.

He stressed that it was high time the government implemented the public health measures more strictly. Also, initiatives must be taken to import vaccines from India as well as under the COVAX facility to vaccinate the high-risk population so that the death rate can be minimised, he added.

Moreover, Dr. Pandey said, “The fear of catching the virus has also diminished in the public. We must understand that it is our duty to save ourselves, our family and the society from the pandemic by following the health safety protocols.”

“It is learnt that our economy cannot survive another lockdown or curfew, so it is imperative for us to mend our ways,” said Dr. Pandey.
Similarly, Dr. Samir Kumar Adhikari, assistant spokesperson for MoHP, said, “Only the infection rate of COVID-19 has decreased in Nepal. The threat still looms large. As the virus cases are on the rise in India, the chances of being infected are naturally high in Nepal.”

Stating that the country couldn’t be considered foolproof in the present context, Dr. Adhikari said, “The citizens must not disregard the public health standards. Following the health and safety protocols is the only way ahead to curb the virus.”

He added that the ministry had decided to intensify surveillance in all the border points by coordinating with the concerned authorities. The ministry is also analysing the recent patterns of deaths and infections.

“We will now focus on increasing the capacity of hospitals and PCR-testing labs,” added Dr. Adhikari.

The Health Ministry has directed all 77 districts to stay on high alert. The health desks in all 14 border points and Tribhuwan International Airport have been activated. The ministry has directed to conduct antigen tests on India-returnees based on their symptoms.

Following a massive increase in COVID-19 cases, lockdown and night curfew have been announced in various places of India, including Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi, and Gujrat, among others.

India reported the highest number of infections in months on Monday, with 46,951 virus cases, and 212 fatalities in the last 24 hours.