KATHMANDU, June 2: The district administration offices (DAOs) in the Kathmandu Valley are preparing to ease the prohibitory orders enforced to curb the further spread of COVID-19. The DAOs are planning to ease the prohibitory orders to some extent as the number of new cases of COVID-19 is gradually declining not only in the valley but also across the country. However, epidemiologists fear the worst if the prohibitory orders are not eased scientifically.
There are as many as 104,789 active cases of COVID-19 across the country as of Tuesday. Nepal’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is still 30 to 35 percent. Even if the COVID-19 cases are declining in the city areas, infections are on the rise in the rural villages.
“It is true that the number of new cases of COVID-19 is decreasing daily in the Kathmandu Valley. Prohibitory orders have curbed the infection to some extent but it cannot remain in place for a long time. The economy is shrinking and people are losing their jobs, income sources. So, the prohibitory orders should be gradually eased but scientifically,” said Dr Samir Mani Dixit. “Those in decision making positions must seek experts’ ideas and suggestions which they barely do,” he added.
The DAOs are preparing to extend the ongoing prohibitory orders in the Kathmandu Valley for a third time. Only confining people to their houses will make the situation worse, fear experts.
“Those suffering from chronic diseases other than COVID-19 are deprived of treatment. Thousands in the valley have lost their sources of income. It is now time for the government to mull over the scientific way of combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Dixit said. “Why is the government not allowing e-commerce businesses to operate? Home delivery services and online businesses must be allowed to operate adopting proper COVID-19 safety protocols,” he added. “It will keep the economy running, provide employment and services to the public.”
“Rather than just extending the prohibitory orders and closing businesses, the government must focus on vaccination campaigns. Rapid and mass COVID-19 testing must be done at community level every week,” suggested Dr Dixit. “Markets and other essential activities should be allowed to remain open for 2 to 3 hours in the morning and evening and there must be strict monitoring daily.”
Dr Sagar Kumar Rajbhandari, director of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital based at Teku in Kathmandu, also has the same views regarding the easing of the prohibitory orders. “Not only has the health and economy but also social factors played a vital role in the development of the country. Due to the prohibitory orders and COVID-19 pandemic, these activities have remained closed for weeks. People cannot and shouldn’t be confined to their houses. The prohibitory orders must be eased but scientifically,” he said.
Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, an epidemiologist working at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Diseases Hospital in Kathmandu maintains that the risk of COVID-19 has not decreased in the valley. “Numbers of new cases are decreasing but the risk still persists,” he said. “Even if the government eases the prohibitory orders, there should be strict monitoring and rapid testing.”
Nepal suffered a devastating second wave of COVID-19 mainly due to three reasons; large gatherings, mutation of the virus and lack of vaccination, according to Dr Pun. “If the prohibitory orders get eased and people begin to avoid COVID-19 safety measures, there is no doubt that we will be hit by a third wave,” he said.
Vaccines must be given the top priority in the days to come. As stated by Dr Pun, around 90 percent of COVID-19 patients in ICUs and ventilators are those who did not receive vaccines.
Therefore, it seems crystal clear that the government must adopt scientific methods to curb the further spread of COVID-19 and the general public should stay cautious and follow government orders.