KATHMANDU, Dec 29: Although the country is already battling the COVID-19 pandemic, people do not seem to care. After the decision of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to dissolve the House of Representatives, people are enraged, and protests are erupting in all major cities of the country.
Despite the pandemic, people are hitting the streets against the House dissolution. With protests erupting across the country, public health experts warn that gatherings without maintaining health safety protocols are increasing the risk of the transmission of the virus at the community level.
“The number of cases was decreasing, but the recent series of protests is bringing the next wave of COVID-19. People are gathering without observing the health safety protocols. With demonstrators gathering everywhere, Nepal will see a massive surge in the number of cases after a few weeks,” said Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at Teku Hospital.
Following the recommendation of the cabinet, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House on December 20, and announced the dates for midterm elections for April 30 and May 10.
“First the series of protests, then mass mobilization of people in elections. The government was already lagging behind in controlling the pandemic, and now the political turmoil. The country will be hit by the next wave of COVID-19,” he said.
With the government already stopping contact-tracing and opening every sector without proper monitoring, there was already a risk of transmission. “As people have stopped going to laboratories and the government is also reducing the number of tests, the number of cases is going to rise in the coming days,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Nepal has reported 259,548 COVID-19 cases, with 1,840 deaths linked with the infection. Although the number of cases has been declining, the COVID-19 positivity rate is still more than 14 percent.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, the number of cases is expected to rise as protests and demonstrations have erupted in recent times. “The ministry is aware of the current developments. But there is nothing the ministry can do,” said Dr Roshan Pokharel, chief specialist at the health ministry.
In view of a possible rise in COVID-19 cases, the health ministry has already asked the COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC) to take initiatives for stopping the protest programs.
“The ministry has been urging the people to follow proper health safety protocols. But all the sectors are already open, and protests are erupting, the number of cases will rise in the next few weeks,” he added.