Tuesday, 18 January, 2022

Guard Against Omicron

As more cases of Omicron variant have now been detected in many countries including India after its first identification on November 23 in South Africa, Nepal, too, is at high risk. Despite such a looming danger, people do not seem to be very serious about abiding by basic health safety protocols. The Nepali month of Mangsir (mid-November to mid-December) is a major wedding season when a large number of young men and women tie their nuptial knots. But it is a matter of grave concern that those attending wedding ceremonies have been found ignoring health norms like wearing a face-mask and maintaining social distance even when health experts have been raising an alarm about the fresh outbreak. Since the country has reported less number of COVID-19 infections and resultant deaths over the past few weeks, many people have misconception that the pandemic has subsided with the intensification of the vaccination drive against it. This may not be a permanent trend.

Considering this, the responsible authorities must step up necessary measures to make sure that wedding ceremonies, and other social and cultural gatherings take place with all health safety protocols. Hotels, party palaces and other venues hosting such get-togethers also have the responsibility to stick to health rules strictly so as to help prevent the transmission of the contagion. In addition, the country has witnessed more political activities with the key political parties holding their general conventions. If the cultural gatherings and political rallies and meetings are held in a careless way, they might prove to be very costly for people as well as the nation. The responsible authorities now need to come up with necessary restrictions before anything bad happens.

With researchers around the world now studying the different aspects of the Omicron variant, dozens of nations have taken steps to stop it from spreading. Nepal has also made a week-long quarantine mandatory for those coming from South Africa and its neighbouring countries. The government has called upon all the citizens not to go abroad unless there is an urgency in view of growing risk of the new COVID variant. In a public notice issued on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Population asked everyone to take precautions against the lethal viral disease. The new variant is believed to be quite transmissible and it could infect people belonging to any age-group. The ministry has already announced the establishment of health desks at all the border entry points to detect the Omicron strain. However, no cases of this variant have been found till date in Nepal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already labelled Omicron as a ‘Universal Variant of Concern’ because of its capacity to infect many people in no time. Taking this into serious consideration, the government has increased testing and surveillance. It has also urged other stakeholders, including the concerned government bodies, to closely monitor the potential cases of the pandemic. Vaccinating people against COVID-19 has remained topmost priority of the government. On Wednesday alone, the country received additional 972,000 doses of Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India through COVAX facility. Millions of doses of vaccines are in the pipeline. The government is also in the process of vaccinating children aged between 12 and 18 by purchasing Pfizer vaccine.