Saturday, 16 January, 2021

Status Of Virus Outbreak In Nepal

Uttam Maharjan


Till now, 31 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, have been detected in Nepal. The disease was detected in the people returning home from abroad except one, who contracted the disease from her relative, a foreign returnee. With this, the country has entered the second phase of the transmission of the disease. The disease first appeared in Wuhan, China in late December 2019. At the time, the world community was of the opinion that it would be confined to China only. But contrary to expectations, the disease quickly spread to Europe and the Americas, compelling the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare it a global pandemic. Now, the disease has spread to 210 countries and territories.

Preventive measures
As the disease is contagious in nature, its spread has been stoked by the mobility of people across the world. That is why many countries have adopted preventive measures to contain the spread of the disease. The country, too, has followed suit by adopting a lockdown measure. The country has been under lockdown since March 24. The lockdown has now been extended till April 27.
The country has adopted a 6-T strategy for fighting the spread of the disease. The six-pronged strategy consists of travel restrictions, testing, tracing, tracking, treatment and togetherness. The WHO stresses testing as an effective tool for identifying and treating the patients of the disease. The last component, togetherness, implies the importance of synergetic efforts on the part of all the countries to fight the spread of the disease.
In the beginning, the country had only one hospital and one laboratory to deal with the disease. The rate of testing was very slow at the time. Now the situation has turned for the better. Required medical equipment and goods have been brought here from abroad and many hospitals have been equipped with isolation wards. Now, testing is conducted in all the seven states. Till now, about 28,000 tests have been conducted.
Two types of tests are being conducted now in the country. One is RDT (rapid diagnostic test) and the other is PCR test (polymerase chain reaction test). The RDT is a test for the presence or absence of antibodies in the body, whereas the PCR test is for the confirmation of the disease. There is confusion among the people as to the results of the tests. Some people even doubt whether the RDT is necessary. To know the history of the infection, the RDT is required. The positive results of both the tests show an active case, whereas the negative results show that there is no incidence of the disease. Likewise, the positive result of the RDT and the negative result of the PCR test show that a person was earlier infected but has now recovered or he is not an active case now. On the other hand, the negative result of the RDT and the positive result of the PCR test show that the disease is in the incubation period.
With the scare of the disease burgeoning day by day, the hospitals in the country have prioritised the treatment of the disease. Before the lockdown was imposed in the country, there were just two cases of the disease. During the lockdown, 29 cases have been added to the tally. Now, there are 28 active cases, while three patients have recovered from the disease. We hope the remaining patients will also recover from the disease soon.
The lockdown is an effective tool for preventing and controlling the disease. But unfortunately, many people have reportedly returned home from India during the lockdown, violating the lockdown protocol. However, the government has tightened the lockdown by deploying security forces along the Nepal-India border. There are still many people stranded on the border. The Supreme Court has directed the government to bring them back home.
It may be noted that the governments of Nepal and India have agreed to provide for food and lodging for the marooned Indians and Nepalis respectively. As the lockdown measures are in force in both the countries, the true intention of the measure- staying where one is- needs to be followed in both the countries so that the movement of the people may not pose a threat to the local populace. After all, social distancing is the main mantra for curbing the spread of the disease.
A study has shown that preventing measures need to be followed till 2022. This shows how horrendous the disease is and how important it is to take preventing measures. Even an iota of negligence may turn the situation for the worse. It has been asserted that the disease is the greatest disaster after the Second World War, overshadowing the 2008 recession.

Supportive role
The situation in the country has not turned so bad. Till now, all the cases have turned out to be imported cases. So the country has not entered the third phase of the transmission of the disease: community transmission. As such, the country should keep on enforcing the present measures in earnest. If necessary, the ongoing lockdown should be further extended. If the disease enters the third phase, it will be very difficult to control the disease given the inadequate healthcare facilities available in the country.
Therefore, the government, health workers, general people and media should all play a supportive role in curbing the disease. The quicker it is controlled, the better. Persistence of the disease for a long period of time will for sure batter the economy of the country on an unprecedented scale.

(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000. 

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