The world was caught unaware when the novel coronavirus turned into a global pandemic, while doctors, scientists, and world leaders struggled to figure things out.
One year later, facts have been established regarding the virus’ spread, preventive measures against it, its impact on public health, and most importantly — vaccines have been rolled out.
It is also a given fact that the COVID-19 has a second and a third wave with mutant variants capable of incurring more damage than the first wave.
Nepali population as well as government had one year to be informed and prepare for a second wave.
As many as 3,032 new cases of coronavirus infection were reported across the country on Sunday, including 1,498 cases in the Kathmandu Valley.
Similarly, 28 COVID patients died in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 3,164 and total caseload to 300,119, including 19,382 active cases.
As intraday COVID-19 caseload as well as death toll is increasing at an alarming rate, CPN-UML Spokesperson Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said on Sunday that the government was trying to focus on enforcing health protocols instead of imposing a nationwide lockdown keeping in mind the gradually healing economy.
Healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas, are in shambles with the alarming jump in daily cases.
The government has, meanwhile, given local-level authorities the onus of imposing necessary restrictions in accordance to severity of their situation. Exams and schools have been shut until further notice.
According to public health expert Dr Rajendra BC, about 50 percent of the new infections are a result of discouraging public to get tested until a complex health condition arises, lack of contact tracing, and negligence in complying with health standards.
Despite repeated calls from health experts to the government to strengthen healthcare infrastructure, ensure implementation of health protocols, and intensify testing and vaccinating, the government has resorted to negligence.
Banke district has enforced a week-long lockdown in view of the rise in COIVD cases. Similarly, district administration offices (DAOs) of the three districts — Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur — in the Kathmandu Valley have decided to suspend all their regular services except emergency ones for a week starting Monday in wake of the growing risk of COVID-19 infection.
WHAT HAPPENED IN INDIA?
Today, India has become the hardest hit country in the world. India on Monday set a global record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, while deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by an all-time high over the last 24 hours.
With 352,991 new cases, India’s total caseload has crossed 17 million. Deaths rose by a record 2,812 to reach a total of 195,123, according to health ministry data.
Hospital beds and oxygen supplies are stretched to their maximum limit, with reports of sick patients being turned away from hospitals, people dying in footpaths, mass cremations, and social media feeds filled with distraught family members whose loved ones cannot access the healthcare they need.
The terrifying jump in COVID cases is attributed to crowded election rallied – led by Prime Minster Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah — in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on March 30.
Similarly, millions of people flocking the Kumbh Mela, a religious festival, at the assurance of PM Modi as well as ruling Bharatiya Janta Party leaders that worshippers of Hindu gods will not contract the deadly virus.
Prime Minister Modi has also been accused of indulging in diplomacy politics by diverting the vaccine supply to other countries while his own nation grapples to manage mass graves.
The Indian government also recently asked Twitter to take down dozens of tweets, including some by local lawmakers, that were critical of India’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Peddling false information by influential political leaders, arresting government critics, touting that there is no dearth of medical oxygen and hospital beds, not compensating healthcare workers, continuing with election rallies and major festival celebrations are currently rampant in India.
The country has finally asked for help from US and Germany to provide it with medical aid.
DID WE LEARN ANYTHING FROM THE SOUTHERN NEIGHBOR?
Nepal Government has reportedly written to India asking for essential medical supplies, including liquid oxygen. The Ministry of Health has provided a list of necessary materials to the Government of India through the Ministry of External Affairs, according to reports.
As Nepali political leaders assure that the country does not need a nationwide lockdown, despite calls from experts that at this rate the hospitals will soon be full and unable to cope with surge in patients, the government has reportedly internally asked India for help.
Nepali politicians too hosted large crowds in the recent months, sometimes in protest and other times in show of power, amid an ongoing pandemic.
The general public cannot be spared of accountability either as thousands gathered to celebrate Holi, Bisket Jatra, and Sindur Jatra, among other festivals, to watch cricket matches, and to host wedding ceremonies, while authorities turned a blind eye to the matter.
Likewise, former royalty Gyanendra Shah was seen attending the Kumb Mela in India without a mask a few days ago. He, along with his wife and daughter, has since tested positive and is currently admitted at the Norvic Hospital.
In the midst of a predictable incoming storm, it is the healthcare workers, working class people, persons with low income, and rural area residents who have to bear the brunt of this blissful ignorance.
Nepali public’s and politicians’ lack of desire to learn from the neighboring country will result in thousands of deaths.
A coordinated response between federal states and central government is needed to manage testing facilities as well as supply of oxygen and essential drugs if the number of COVID cases is to be brought under control in a timely manner.
Ramping up the vaccination programme, strengthening social distancing procedures, and re-introducing lockdown measures with prior notice are other measures that can help.