The Kathmandu Valley recorded the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases on Sunday with 172 new infections, up from 98 the day before. Before this, the highest recorded daily total for the Valley was on August 12 with 138 new cases.
According to experts, the number of Covid-19 cases will continue to rise in the days to come, mostly due to the government’s abysmal efforts at contact tracing. Currently, there are over 1,500 confirmed cases in the Kathmandu Valley alone, but the government has no record of the contact tracing done around these cases.
“If, on average, one person meets five other people, there is a chance that the 1,500 infected may have transmitted the virus to 7,500 more already. This is a hypothetical figure, but this is how the virus spreads exponentially,” infectious disease expert Dr Anup Subedee told The Record.
The Kathmandu Valley, which includes the cities of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, contains the country’s most populated metropolis and is more vulnerable to outbreaks compared to other less populated areas in the country. The government has taken some measures to contain the fast-increasing spread. Bans on long-distance public transport as well as international and domestic flights have been extended to August 31. The home ministry has also prohibited social events and gatherings to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread. However, so far, the government has not adopted any mechanisms to ensure that effective contact tracing is taking place. Experts agree that strategies for containing the spread of a highly infectious disease like Covid-19 which fail to include contact tracing can rarely be successful.
As the number of infections continues to rise in the capital, an already limited healthcare system is finding itself easily overwhelmed. According to government data, designated hospitals are already in short supply of staff across the nation, with 249 health professionals that have so far tested positive. Of them, 28 are doctors, 20 are nurses, while the majority include health assistants, pharmacists, ambulance drivers, and non-medical hospital staff. In the Kathmandu metropolis, the increased rate of infections will definitely have an impact on hospital staff.
“Human resources are going to receive a big blow, limiting hospitals’ capacity to handle Covid-19 caes, but it seems like the government hasn’t considered this at all,” said a doctor at Bir Hospital, one of the busiest public hospitals in the capital which has recently started treating Covid patients.
While the Covid infections curve is still on an upward trend, Covid-19 designated hospitals are already packed to their capacity with patients. The government has instructed community and private hospitals to allocate 20 percent of their beds for Covid infected patients whereas medical colleges have been asked to set up separate isolation wards comprising 33 percent of their beds. But private hospitals have not heeded the government’s instructions saying doing so would put the lives of general patients at risk.
As of Sunday, the total number of Covid cases in Nepal stands at 26,660, with the Ministry of Health and Population reporting 641 new cases across the country. Two more deaths — of a man from Parsa and a woman from Morang — have been added to the death toll, taking the total to 104. In the coming days, the rate of Covid-related deaths is also expected to rise.
Densely populated cities, including Kathmandu, Morang, Parsa, Rautahat and Mahottari, have all reported more than 500 cases each. Curfews have been clapped in various parts of the country in an attempt to stop the spread of infections. In Parsa, the army was reportedly mobilised to enforce lockdown rules after the general public continued to refuse the local administration’s order.
Health officials are worried as the virus continues to infect frontline health workers, security personnel and volunteers, thereby straining the nation’s existing capacity to tackle the pandemic.