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Keep children safe from Omicron spread: Experts



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By Sampada A. Khatiwada
Kathmandu, Jan. 8: Among growing threats of the Omicron variant, the number of COVID-19 cases has been on the rise in the country lately. While the COVID-19 tally of neighbouring country India is surging significantly in recent weeks, the daily infection rfate in Nepal has gone up by 3.9 per cent in one week’s span.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) data, on December 31 last Friday, the infection rate was 2.5 per cent while this Friday, it soared to 6.4 per cent.
Similarly, the nation recorded 2,878 new cases of COVID-19 in this week via 66,795 RT-PCR and antigen tests. During the same span, only 1,811 people recovered from the infection while 13 succumbed to it.
The public health experts have warned that as the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in various countries, including the United States, Europe, African countries, and India, Nepal should begin its preparations for the prevention and control of it.
Epidemiologist Dr. Biraj Karmacharya said, "Increasing cases of COVID-19 in India hints at a surge in COVID-19 tally here. Considering that Nepal shares an open border with India, the virus can enter the country without hindrances."

"Efforts must be made immediately to avoid the spread. As children have not been vaccinated, they are at a higher risk," he said, adding that special efforts must be made to keep children safe from the probable outbreak.
Dr. Karmacharya stressed intensifying the vaccination campaign and inoculating the unvaccinated groups as early as possible.
Of the total population, 48.5 per cent have been administered with COVID-19 vaccines and of them, 35.9 per cent have been inoculated with full dose. Similarly, 54.7 per cent of the targeted population have received the full dose of the anti-coronavirus vaccine and 74.0 per cent have received the first dose.

Similarly, Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the clinical research unit at Teku Hospital, also said that the unvaccinated group was at risk. "Although the severity of infection of Omicron variant is less than other coronavirus variants, the health safety protocols must be enforced duly and vaccination campaign should be carried out swiftly to ensure the safety of risk-prone groups," he said.
Meanwhile, the government has already been gearing up to fight the possible outbreak of Omicron. Issuing a press statement on Friday, the MoHP requested all health offices across the nation to adopt high alertness to check possible spread of the Omicron variant.
Dr. Sangeeta Mishra, spokesperson at the Health Ministry, said, "The government is making efforts in a sensitive manner to prevent the possible third wave." She added that the government had been expanding COVID-19 tests and vaccination campaigns in a rapid manner.

"PCR test report has been made mandatory for people entering Nepal. If the virus infection is detected in the entrants, then gene sequencing of their swab sample is done immediately," said Dr. Mishra.
Spokesperson Dr. Mishra added that the MoHP had directed the health desks installed at the airport and border points to carry out health checkups of those entering the country and send them to quarantine if found suspicious.
Stating that the government alone was unable to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Nepal, Dr. Mishra further requested everyone to strictly abide by the public health standards.
Until now, 27 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in Nepal.