Is Nepal well-prepared to fight against COVID-19?

Published On: March 11, 2020 06:50 PM NPT By: Kunga Hyolmo

Recently, I visited Boudhanath while returning home from my office. I encountered something unusual. All the people in the Kora (Circle of Boudhanath) were wearing protective face masks; apparently as one of the measures protect themselves from a COVID-19 which is now spreading beyond China. Like other parts of Kathmandu valley, lamas, tourists, locals and shopkeepers were wearing blue, yellow, black, pink and white-colored face masks around Bouddhanath.

At this point of time, frequently asked question is: do such masks really protect us from COVID-19? Are people correctly using the mask? Is wearing mask enough to stay safe from the virus? Isn’t it necessary to have healthy diet apart from wearing masks? Are we well-prepared? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), face mask will cut some percent of virus transmission only if it is used correctly.

Amid grappling fear of a viral outbreak, it is very important for Nepali people to know about first about this virus and its causes. The use of protective mask alone is not enough for the people. Masks will only cut some percent of disease transmission by capturing droplets, which is the main transmission route of the coronavirus when it is used correctly. Coronavirus can also be transmitted from person to person through their eye contacts and tiny vital particles called aerosols. WHO suggests wearing a mask when we are coughing and sneezing. Besides, masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Re-use of the mask is not recommended. According to WHO, it is not necessary to wear the protective mask by a healthy person if he/she is not taking care of the infected persons. In this sense, Nepali people should not be worried much if they are not getting masks.  

As of now, one case of virus infection has been reported in Nepal and he has returned home after recuperating. So, instead of panicking, it is very much important to know about the virus, it’s a mode of transmission, preventive measures and myths associated with it? Instead of panicking and following myths blindly, one has to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak provided by WHO or reliable government agencies.

Besides we can keep ourselves isolated from the crowd or mass. According to WHO, we should maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between ourselves and anyone who is coughing and sneezing. Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth can also be a good preventive measure as hands can pick up viruses that may transmit the virus. Likewise, maintaining good respiratory hygiene, covering mouths and nose while coughing and sneezing, seeking medical care early in case of fever, cough and difficulty breathing can create a huge difference in fighting viral outbreaks of this new Corona Virus.

Amid this global epidemic, the Nepal government must take serious steps and execute effective plans to contain coronavirus in case of an outbreak. Nepali people must be well-informed about the nature, mode of transmission and preventive measures against COVID-19. Just canceling Visit Nepal 2020 campaign and urging people to avoid public gathering is not enough. They should come up with some creative and effective measures as we Nepali stand between the two largest populous countries China and India.

Although, the COVID-19 was originated in the Wuhan city of our neighboring China, it has not spread to our country so far. We are lucky in this sense. Southern neighbor India recently has reported about the outbreak of COVID-19 and the number of people being infected is rising. So, there is no doubt that today or tomorrow we will soon witness the same condition in our country. Are we really prepared ?

(The author is associated with Republica Online)

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