KATHMANDU, April 28: Despite the government's decision to issue a two-week long prohibitory order in various districts including Kathmandu Valley from Thursday, there is no plan to expand the scope of testing, treatment and vaccination campaigns for the long-term control of the coronavirus. Although the prohibitory order is considered helpful to break the chain of the infection, it is only a temporary measure.
Currently, most of the people who go for PCR tests are those who are experiencing symptoms and those aspiring to go abroad. In terms of infectivity, the current variant is much stronger even as patients may not develop any symptoms in the beginning. Experts believe that it is therefore important to launch extensive testing and contact tracing of the infected persons for the effective control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The need for contact tracing has increased as the government estimates that an average of 2.3 million people are currently infected with the virus. A senior health ministry official said contact tracing at the local level has not been much effective.
Experts are worried that if a new strategy and action plan for epidemic control is not launched during the prohibitory period, the time will be wasted and the situation will return to chaos. President of Nepal Medical Association (NMA) Dr Lochan Karki said the government has not made necessary preparations despite knowing that a second wave of corona was expected. “The situation would have been different if the hospitals had ensured adequate beds with oxygen. But now there are no beds anywhere and in a few days there will be no oxygen,” he said. “No one else but the government is responsible. The health ministry is responsible for this situation. The government is fully responsible for the lockdown it has enforced now.”
Dr Karki said the government was embroiled in political controversy at a time when public health issues had grown extremely challenging and that it could not be sensitive to the lives of the people. “Lockdown may prevent the spread of the virus to some extent and improve the graph of infection, but the duration of lockdown should not be extended one after the other as it was done last year. During this period, beds, oxygen and vaccinations should be ensured and the general public should be informed about the behavior to be adopted to live with COVID-19,” he further said.
The NMA in a statement on Tuesday said that the number of deaths due to lack of beds, medicines and oxygen in hospitals during the second wave of corona was increasing. The umbrella organization of doctors across the country also demanded that a medical emergency be declared in the most infected districts, regular health check-ups and elective surgeries be stopped and existing wards of government, medical colleges and private hospitals be used for the treatment of COVID-19. Stating that the role of the citizens will be very important to support the government’s efforts to fight against COVID-19 pandemic, the association has requested all people to take safety and precautionary measures.
Dr Krishna Poudel, Director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division at the MoHP, maintained that prohibitory order is necessary to break the chain of infection. He said that the number of beds in the hospital should be increased to relieve the pressure of the patients. “Hospitals are required to set aside 50 percent of their beds for COVID-19 treatment. If that happens then the bed problem will be solved to some extent,” he said. “At present, the medicine, oxygen and vaccines needed for COVDI-19 are insufficient. Cooperation from all is a must to tackle this challenge.”