Nepal on precipice of third wave of Covid-19: Here are updates of the situation

Nepal is witnessing a massive uptick in infection over the last few days. The Covid-19 cases doubled on Tuesday.

People wait in line for the Covid-19 vaccine at Teku Hospital in Kathmandu on Monday. (Photo: NL Today)

NL Today

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Kathmandu: In what looks like a sure sign of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the number of cases has been increasing at a staggering rate in the last few days. As many as 1,000 Covid-19 cases have been reported every 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.

On Tuesday, Nepal reported 2,444 Covid-19 cases, which, health experts say, is an early sign of the third wave. The cases almost doubled in just a day as Nepal had reported 1,446 cases on Monday.

According to experts, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is spreading like a wildfire in Nepal. “The Omicron variant is 40-50 percent more infectious than the Delta variant. But the Omicron variant seems less likely to result in death and hospitalization,” said Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert.

Dr Dixit argues that the government needs to analyze the hospitalization rate rather than the number of Covid-19 infections before making decisions on restrictions. “Almost 50 percent of the eligible population is already vaccinated against Covid-19. Also, an earlier study by the Health Ministry showed almost 70 percent of the population has antibodies against Covid-19,” said Dr Dixit. “Given the lower infection rate, and high vaccination rate, Nepal, at this point, should not worry about the increasing number in cases. Nepal should rather be alert.”

After the sudden rise in the number of cases, the government has restricted some activities in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

On Monday, the government decided to restrict gatherings of more than 25 persons in public places. Likewise, anyone entering hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, stadiums, parks, and airports should present vaccination cards from January 21. The government has also decided to shut schools for 15 days.

Dr Dixit says that the government should vaccinate the unvaccinated people. “The vaccination campaign has already covered a huge population, and almost 70 percent of people have immunity against Covid-19. There is no point in imposing restrictions on the vaccinated population,” he said. “Now the government should aggressively vaccinate the remaining population.” 

After the sudden rise in the number of cases, the government has restricted some activities in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

As the cases are on the rise, concerns are being raised regarding whether Nepal has enough hospital beds and equipment to face the third wave. In the second wave, the health system had almost totally collapsed as there was a serious scarcity of beds and oxygen in hospitals for the Covid patients.

This time, the Health Ministry says the health system is ready to face the third wave of the pandemic.

According to Dr Samir Adhikari, joint spokesperson at the Health Ministry, the government, learning lessons from the past, is prepared to face the third wave. “All the hospitals across the country have enough oxygen, ICU beds, HDU beds, ventilators, Isolation wards,” he added.

According to the Ministry, Nepal has 2,797 ICUs, 1,008 ventilators, 3,846 HDUs, 13,939 oxygen cylinders and 693 oxygen containers.

“Health professionals are ready to battle the possible threat of a third wave,” said Dr Sangita Mishra, spokesperson at the Health Ministry.

Talking to Nepal Live Today, Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Teku Hospital, said the public should be aware of the pandemic. “If the public ignores restrictions, the situation could get worse. The government should keep an eye on those entering Nepal from the border region,” he added.

Even though cases are increasing at a staggering rate, the public has been ignoring health safety protocols. In public vehicles, passengers are not wearing face masks properly. There are huge crowds in the market.

“The government should strictly monitor the situation as Covid-19 cases are increasing at a massive rate,” Dr Pun added.