How resource-poor Nepal is grappling with second wave of COVID-19

Published On: May 17, 2021 07:00 AM NPT By: Kunga Hyolmo

Just a year ago, on May 16, 2020, Nepal recorded its first COVID-19 death case and on Sunday, Nepal’s COVID-19 death cases surpassed the 5,000 mark.

KATHMANDU, May 16: Nepal recorded a grim milestone of 9,483 new cases and 225 deaths related to COVID-19 on May 11. The number was so far the highest to have recorded in a single day. The number of active cases surpassed 100,000 on May 12 which was roughly below 10,000 a few weeks ago. Nepal has been recording more than 8,000 new cases and over 100 deaths daily for the past few weeks.

Just a year ago, on May 16, 2020, Nepal recorded its first COVID-19 death case and on Sunday, Nepal’s COVID-19 death cases surpassed the 5,000 mark.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed and the country is facing an acute shortage of medical oxygen. Major hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley have announced to stop admitting COVID-19 patients for treatment, citing shortage of beds and oxygen. The story was different just a month ago.

As early as the end of March, 2021, Nepal was witnessing less than 150 new cases of COVID-19 daily. The COVID-19 recovery rate was almost 99 percent, almost highest in South Asia. Life was gradually getting normal. But, at the same time, India, the neighboring country which shares an open border with Nepal, was witnessing sharp spikes in daily new cases. India began to record more than 400,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily.

With the rise in new cases in India, Nepali migrant workers began returning home in huge numbers. Nepal witnessed a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases following their return in mid-April.

Nepal had recorded its first COVID-19 case on 23 January, 2020 and first COVID-19 death on May 16, 2020. As of Sunday (May 16, 2021), Nepal’s COVID-19 case tally stands at 455,072 including 339,756 recoveries and 5,001 deaths. 

Even though Nepal faced the second wave of COVID-19 almost after a month than in India, the COVID-19 positivity rate and transmission rate of Nepal is almost double than that of India, according to the Ministry of Health and Population. Nepal is the country with the second highest number of active cases of COVID-19 with the recovery rate of 74.4 percent as of Sunday among SAARC countries. 

The district administration offices have been enforcing prohibitory orders as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. As many as 73 out of the 77 districts of Nepal are currently under prohibitory orders. Tourism, business, education and health sectors are largely hit by the pandemic.

According to Dr Biraj Karmacharya, director of the Department of Public Health and Community Program at Dhulikhel Hospital, Nepal’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is more than double that in India. Nepal has a test positivity rate of 46.7 percent whereas that of India is 20.2 percent. Likewise, the number of people dying of COVID-19 daily in Nepal is also more than double in that of India in every 1 million population. As many as six people in every 1 million population are succumbing to COVID-19 in Nepal where the number is only 2.5 in India.

Just in the past one week, the number of COVID-19 patients has surged by 91 percent in Sudurpaschim Province, 134 percent in Karnali Province, 81 percent in Province 2, 28 percent in Province 1, 21 percent in Gandaki Province, four percent in Bagmati Province and minus one percent in Lumbini Province while comparing to the previous week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also expressed concerns over the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the deteriorating situation in Nepal.

Clearly, Nepal is in a desperate need of medical aid and effective plans to control the further spread of COVID-19.


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