Though health experts have long been urging the government to expand contact tracing, testing, and treatment so as to break the COVID-19 transmission chain, the government has instead opted to extend prohibitory orders in various districts as its response.
At present, more than 35 districts across the country are under strict prohibitory orders with merely around 13,000 tests conducted daily. A total 885 new cases were reported from across the country on Wednesday taking the national COVID-19 tally to 34,418 and 175 deaths.
According to Dr Sameer Kumar Adhikari, joint-spokesperson for the Health Ministry, there are 900 ventilators and 2,600 ICU beds across the country which, however, are not all allocated for COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry spokesman Jageswar Gautam claimed that there was no shortage of hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators or testing kits in the country.
Moreover, the government recently decided to force hospitals in Kathmandu to admit COVID-19 patients only if the patients acquire recommendation from the Ministry of Health and Population.
Former director of the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Dr GD Thakur, said corona recovery rate was the lowest in Nepal due to lapses in the treatment process and lack of identification of the infected.
“The recovery rate is decreasing in Nepal and it is not a good symptom. It is rather a sign of poor COVID-19 management system in the country,” he said.
COVID-19 mortality rate is 0.50 percent in Nepal at present. Maldives has the lowest mortality rate (0.39 percent) among SAARC countries, followed by Afghanistan at 3.67 percent. India has a mortality rate of 1.84 percent, Bangladesh 1.34 percent, Pakistan 2.13 percent and Sri Lanka 0.40 percent.
Dr Thakur said the death toll could be even higher as many who have died in the recent months in Nepal were not tested for COVID-19.
Similarly, another former director of the Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Dr Baburam Marasini stressed on the need to test more than 25,000 people every day. Stating that India is testing up to one million people every day, he said infection control would not be possible unless other public health procedures were adopted and the scope of testing was widened.
But the expert’s advices rarely reach the ears of Coronavirus Crisis Management Committee (CCMC), the main body formed to monitor and manage matters related to COVID-19 as the committee is comprised of mainly politicians.
The government has failed to include even a single virologist in CCMC while Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel is the head of CCMC.
CCMC includes Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development Hridayesh Tripathi; Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta; Health Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal; Agriculture Minister Bhusal; Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai and Energy Minister Barshaman Pun, and Chief Secretary Lokdarshan Regmi as members besides Army Chief Purna Chandra Thapa.
The 11-member committee formed as per the March 1 Cabinet decision has Secretary at the Prime minister’s Office Narayan Prasad Bidari as member secretary.
Instead of relying on science and learning from the mistakes of other developed countries, the government including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, has time-and-again touted myths and so-called home remedies to ward off the virus.
Frontline workers, be it healthcare workers or security personnel, are deprived of risk allowances, incentives and protective equipment, demotivating them to serve.
Despite availability of technology experts at home, the government has not been able to come up with a contact tracing app, which has proved to be helpful in countries like the UK.
Likewise, Nepali businesses have laid off 22.5% of their workers as measures to contain the novel coronavirus hit tourism and other activities, according to a study of the economic impact of the outbreak conducted by the central bank.
The study of nearly 700 enterprises in 52 of the country’s 77 districts conducted in June showed most jobs lost in hotels and restaurants followed by agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and the wholesale and retail sectors.
Workers faced average salary cuts of more than 18%, the study found, while the virus forced 61% of business to close completely.
Production and turnover of those that stayed open were on average up to 73% lower, the report said.
With the festive season fast approaching, unchecked inflation, dwindling economy, and government’s apathy to public health, the COVID-19 crisis has not only affected people’s physical health but also their mental wellbeing.
The government, however, is far from accounting the mental impact of the uncertainty, extended closures, and general loss caused by the pandemic.