Kathmandu, Aug. 21: Over the last week, Nepal detected an average of 639 new cases of COVID-19 every day. The positivity rate hovered around 12.5 per cent and fatality stood at around 1.2 per cent. The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has placed Kathmandu and Lalitpur in the red zone, meaning they both have more than 500 active cases of the coronavirus each.
Beyond the valley, the number of people admitted to hospitals for the disease has crossed 150, those in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) is over 40 and the count of people requiring ventilators is also steadily rising.
The country’s COVID graph is going up and has been for quite some time. Yet, this surge in infection does not seem to have fazed people at all. At the Ason market on Saturday, nearly every face visible was uncovered. Physical distancing seemed to be an outlandish concept for the people gathered on the streets of Bhaktapur on Friday to celebrate the successful conclusion of the Saparu (Gai Jatra) festival and in Patan, devotees visiting the Krishna Temple on the occasion of Krishna Janmastami on Friday had hardly adopted any safety precautions.
“We are not afraid of the coronavirus anymore,” said Rocket Maharjan, 27, who was out with his friends at Basantapur, Kathmandu on Saturday without a mask on. “COVID is in the past now,” said Samjhana Karki, 29, who was also without a mask visiting Patan Museum, Lalitpur on Saturday. “We [indicating her and the family members she was with] are not bothered.”
But maybe they should be. As per the MoHP’s daily bulletin, most of the people testing positive for the coronavirus in this latest wave belong to the age group 21 to 30. Data has shown that people who have already been vaccinated or have already contracted the virus are still susceptible to infection. Health experts and the Health Ministry have asked people to adopt precautions but those calls appear to have gone largely unheard. Pharmacist Kapil Chapagain said that this was evidenced by the drop in the sale of hand sanitizer. “Sales have plunged compared to last year,” he said. “Despite the rise in infections, people are not serious about taking preventative measures.”
Chapagain also said that people displaying suspicious symptoms were choosing to self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs than getting themselves tested.
This casual attitude of the public could be dangerous, especially with regard to the BA.5 subvariant of the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 that was detected in the country last month. As Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the USA’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a White House briefing in June, the subvariant is more transmissible and more immune-evading and calls for caution.