Nepal recorded 1,351 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the national tally to 74,745. This places Nepal just four positions below China which currently ranks 44th in global Covid case ranking. At this rate, Nepal is likely to overtake China, with its roughly 85,000 cases against a population of 1.4 billion, in about a week.
Nepal decided to impose a nationwide lockdown after its second Covid case was confirmed on March 23. Authorities imposed a strict lockdown beginning the very next day. Ironically, Covid cases escalated during the lockdown, rendering the government’s efforts to contain the virus ineffective. When the government relaxed the lockdown on July 21, cases had already reached 17,994.
As cases continued to surge after the relaxation, local authorities in Kathmandu Valley started imposing ‘prohibitory orders’ as measures to contain the virus. The public followed the order, but the authorities’ assumption that regulating mobility alone will be enough to contain the virus proved mistaken.
The government didn’t heed suggestions made by experts, nor did it have its own strategy to fight the virus.
By mid-August, three weeks after the four-month-long nationwide lockdown had been lifted, over 50 districts had imposed prohibitory orders, banning the mobility of people and shutting down all services. By August 18, the number of Covid cases had reached 28,257. Kathmandu Valley’s local authorities — which include the Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur district administration offices — resorted to issuing prohibitory orders on August 19.
Cases continued to rise, even as the government scaled down daily tests to show a dip in the number of cases. Nepal was conducting around 13,000 daily tests at one time, but has now scaled down to 10,000 average daily tests. Despite all efforts, infections had reached 49,219 by the time the prohibitory orders were partially lifted on September 9. This means that close to 21,000 people tested positive during the prohibitory order period.
With the partial lifting of the prohibitory orders, Kathmandu, once more, became a bustling metropolis. Commerce picked up after six months of economic inactivity as offices, restaurants, and markets have largely resumed their daily business. Consequently, there has been a significant rise in the number of cases in the Valley. For instance, a total of 817 out of 1,351 new Covid cases confirmed on Monday are from the Valley alone. With this, Kathmandu Valley has a total of 22,326 cases so far.
Studying this trend, it becomes clear that the virus continued to spread during the lockdown and has surged further since its relaxation, with over 25,000 cases confirmed in a matter of three weeks since the relaxation of the second lockdown.
While the government has acknowledged the surge in infections, it has been unsuccessful at preventing further spread of the virus. Last week, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) made a recommendation to the government to impose another lockdown if active cases cross the 25,000 mark. This recommendation was made considering the lack of health infrastructure suited for treating corona patients if cases exceed the mark.
According to the MoHP, active Covid cases currently stand at 19,624. Government figures show a 73.1 percent recovery rate, with a total of 54,640 infected people making successful recovery so far. A total of 742 individuals recovered in the past 24 hours. At this rate, active Covid-19 cases will likely increase by around 700 cases per day and Nepal’s active coronavirus tally will reach 25,000 in about a week. If this happens, there is a high possibility that Nepal will see a third lockdown.
“Dashain and the winter are going to be dangerous times. People will visit the elderly, who are a vulnerable group, during Dashain. In the winter, people tend to stay in closed rooms. One positive person can infect many others during these times,” said Dr Lhamo Sherpa.