Prospect of COVID-19 in Nepal
There is a reason to panic about COVID-19. The disease that originated from Wuhan of China in late December last year has claimed over 2900 lives and infected over 98,000 people worldwide (the toll is ever rising). The infection that was limited to China and few other countries until recently has now spread to over 60 countries across the globe. From Japan to South Korea, to the UK to the US to Iran, COVID-19 seems to have reached every corner of the globe. And think of it, all of these countries where the COVID-19 has sent specter of doom are much more developed than Nepal in terms of preparedness and health care services. Even they are struggling to contain the disease. Shortage of protective masks and test kits is being reported in every country. More alarmingly, even the individuals with no travel history to the countries with reported infection have shown the symptoms of COVID-19. The World Health Organization has announced that coronavirus outbreak has reached the “highest level” of risk for the world. Besides, the WHO has also categorized Nepal among the highest risk countries. This is no time for Nepal to sit back and wish that Nepal would be untouched by the global outbreak.
Our preparation, however, seems to be poor. Our health facilities do not have enough ICU rooms just in case the cases of virus infections are detected. There already is a shortage of hand sanitizers and face masks in the market. Our insensitivity toward the possible outbreak was conspicuous when tourism minister was travelling round the world branding Nepal as a ‘coronavirus-free country’ to visit. Besides, our health desks at TIA and major entry points along the border do not seem to be properly functioning nor are they equipped with trained human resources and required test kits and medicines. We cannot wallow in complacency when the whole world is stepping up efforts to contain the outbreaks and taking necessary measures to save the people.
Meanwhile, though late, the government has announced to cancel all promotional activities related to the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign in foreign countries until the situation improves. This is a good move. But given how fast the virus is spreading round the world, perhaps the government also needs to consider travel restrictions to Nepal from the countries where infections have been reported. More than that the government needs to ensure that we have properly equipped isolation and quarantine facilities to keep the infected people, if and when such cases are reported. Besides, it should be ensured that every hospital in the country has sufficient test kits and medicines to diagnose and treat the patients. COVID-19 is a treatable infection and people’s lives can be saved only if we have resources in place for the purpose. So far, we are a lucky country in the sense that only one case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Nepal and the Nepali student, who had returned from China and who was tested positive for coronavirus, has now been cured. But if other cases emerge, we cannot expect assistance from neighboring countries for they themselves will be struggling to stop the contagion. The government of Nepal needs to be extra careful and take all-out efforts for preparation. COVID-19 is ravaging the world. In Nepal, it seems to be a matter of only when.