Doctors in Nepal have warned that the country is facing a similar devastating wave of Covid-19 as neighbouring India, with border districts already reporting an alarming spike in cases and shortage of hospital beds and oxygen.
In the Banke district of Nepal, bordering India, doctors at Bheri hospital said it was turning into a “mini India”, with coronavirus spreading out of control.
“The situation is out of control. We are in a helpless situation,” said Rajan Pandey, the chief consultant physician at the hospital. “We lack nursing manpower in the hospital.” In the last two weeks, 80 staff members at Bheri hospital have tested positive for Covid-19.
On Thursday, the capital, Kathmandu, went into a two-week lockdown, as the health minister, Hridayesh Tripathi, warned that a second wave was hitting the country that was “more contagious and lethal”. Speaking to the Nepali Times, Tripathi said Nepal’s healthcare system “can’t contain the pandemic”.
Banke has become one of the worst-hit areas outside Kathmandu. On Friday morning, it reported 12 deaths over 24 hours, its highest dailydeath toll.
So far Nepal has reported 323,187 cases and 3279 Covid-19 deaths, but cases are going up at breakneck speed. The peak in October was 5,743 cases in a single day but the current surge in cases already hit 5,657 cases on Friday.
Pandey is among the doctors and health experts who believe that the new B1617 variant first detected in India, which is believed to be more contagious, has spread into Nepal and is behind the recent surge in cases, which has hit younger patients and even children this time, similar to the situation in India. However, there is a lack of scientific data to prove this.
“We don’t have a machine to check which variant it is. We cannot say because we don’t have a sequencing machine. I am told they have brought the machine but it’s not in use,” said Pandey.
But he spoke of a hospital already overcrowded with Covid-19 patents, many gasping for oxygen as they waited for hours for admission outside the hospital gates, and a shortage of intensive care beds and ventilators.
“I, my mother and my father got Covid-19. My father’s situation deteriorated, it was almost impossible to get a ventilator, we had to fight for it,” says Sudil Kumar Lakhe in Banke, whose father has pneumonia after Covid-19 complications.
Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population issued a stark statement this week saying districts bordering India were the worst affected and coronavirus cases were increasing fast.
“The cases are increasing so fast that the country’s healthcare system cannot cope. We request everyone to be sensible,” read a statement issued by the government.
Only about 7% of the population have received their Covid-19 vaccine shots. Initially, Nepal was a beneficiary of Delhi’s “vaccine diplomacy”, with India donating 100,000 doses to its neighbour. However, after India halted all vaccine exports in recent weeks, Nepal is relying on China for doses and vaccine rollout has slowed.
Nepal’s government also denied reports that Covid-19 had reached Everest. Last week, it emerged that a Norwegian climber, Erlend Ness, had been airlifted off the mountain after testing positive for Covid-19.
Though Covid cases are surging in Nepal, the government has issued 408 permits to climb Everest, which is a crucial source of tourist income.
Mohan Bahadur GC, the director of the Department of Tourism, denied there had been any Covid-19 cases at the Everest base camp.
When asked about some climbers flying back to Kathmandu and eventually testing positive after showing symptoms, he said: “There is no facility to check Covid-19 at Everest base camp.”
Nepal facing deadly Covid wave similar to India, doctors warn – The Guardian