Monday, 18 January, 2021

Mutant Virus Threat

It is quite heartening to note that Nepal has seen a downturn trend in COVID-19 infections as well as deaths over the last couple of weeks. The daily update of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) confirmed a total of 722 new infections and three fatalities on Tuesday when as many as 966 coronavirus patients recovered. The new infections were detected in Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests conducted on 7,000 persons in the last 24 hours. Along with those cases, the country's total COVID-19 tally reached 255,236. The update showed that there are only about 7,729 active coronavirus cases in the country. Of them, 4,264 patients are undergoing treatment in institutional isolation, 260 are at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the remaining 48 are being treated with the support of ventilators.

The number of persons staying in quarantine now stands at only 413. As of Tuesday, 245,709 coronavirus patients were recovered in the country, with a promising recovery rate of 96.3 per cent. However, Nepal is not free from the possible threat of the lethal virus disease. Many nations such as the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, France and Italy have reported an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections in recent times, with more daily hospitalisations and deaths. They have been forced to re-impose lockdowns and other restrictions to stem the spread of the virus disease. The USA and the UK have even started a vaccination drive to contain the pandemic while numerous other nations are preparing for inoculating their citizens. But the appearance of a new variant of the coronavirus in the UK could pose yet another threat to the mankind.

Following the detection of this new virus strain, a number of European and other nations have put a ban on the UK arrivals. Nepal has also banned passengers from or transiting through the UK in order to prevent the new virus strain from entering the country. The fresh measure has come into effect since Wednesday mid-night. The new variant is reported to be more contagious than the original version of COVID-19. However, scientific investigations into the virus are now underway. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been in close contact with the UK officials over the new variant of coronavirus. The same mutation of COVID-19 has also been found in other European nations like Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Nepal will continue to adopt the entry curbs until further notice. The Government of Nepal deserves kudos for taking such a prompt step to ensure that the new variant is not entering the country. With the coronavirus fears continue, the country has suspended visa-on-arrival scheme for most travellers. But foreign travellers can apply for a Nepali visa at Nepali diplomatic missions abroad. They have to submit negative PCR test results for COVID-19 issued within 72 hours prior to departure. Besides, trekkers and mountaineers entering the country with a pre-approved visa must hold a hotel booking for at least one week. They should also have a medical insurance for COVID-19 worth at least US$ 5,000. The government’s efforts to deal with the pandemic must not fall in shadow of the recent political developments.  

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