Covid-19 spares no oneThe average number of new infections has been consistently rising, with no exit strategy in sight.
On Saturday, three advisers to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli tested positive for Covid-19. Altogether, as many as 144 people, including security personnel from the Nepal Army and Nepal Police deployed at Baluwatar, have tested positive over the last few days. This raises concerns about the prime minister’s health. On Sunday afternoon, Ram Sharan Bajgain, the prime minister’s communication expert, also announced on social media that he had tested positive. This development at the heart of the country’s administration comes nine days after Oli’s personal physician Dr Dibya Singh Shah tested positive for the coronavirus.
What has been clear right from the beginning is that Covid-19 spares no one. Today, we all know first degree contacts who have either tested positive for the coronavirus, recovered from the disease or are currently in isolation or under quarantine. Some of us also mourn the loss of family members and friends. Covid-19 infections in the country are at their peak, and the average number of new infections has been consistently increasing, with no exit strategy in sight. As of Sunday afternoon, the country has seen 86,823 infections and 535 coronavirus-related deaths since the first Covid-19 case was reported in January.
The KP Oli administration has downplayed the pandemic situation all along. The prime minister became a subject of ridicule and memes after he became the prime source of misinformation surrounding the disease. Saturday’s development, hopefully, will knock some sense into Baluwatar. The prime minister is 68 years old, he underwent his second kidney transplant only in March this year and he is immuno-compromised. He is at high risk due to his pre-existing conditions and his close contact with people who have recently tested positive. Lucky for them, the national testing guidelines which require cases to be symptomatic before testing didn’t apply and the prime minister’s office, most probably, has initiated a contact tracing drive, both forward and backward.
According to Oli’s foreign affairs adviser Rajan Bhattarai, who also contracted the virus, Oli recently underwent Covid-19 test, and his results were negative. Baluwatar needs to come clean and clear all concerns regarding the health condition of the prime minister. It should not hold information and must communicate when the next test of the prime minister will be held and make public the report, whether it is negative or positive. The belief of Oli’s advisers that the likelihood of him contracting the virus is minimal is as quack as the prime minister’s remark that ‘corona is like the flu’. The chief executive’s office cannot continue to defy science and evolving knowledge of the disease.
Now that Covid-19 has also hit the prime minister’s secretariat, the Oli administration needs to consider the gravity of the situation. The virus is spreading rapidly in the densely populated Kathmandu Valley since cases first surged in July after the government lifted the first lockdown. At 152 deaths, the Valley has also reported the highest number of fatalities, most of whom are above 60 years old. Epidemiologists say all these indicate that the virus is now circulating at the household level and restrictions will not work anymore. As of Sunday afternoon, across the country, there are 22,219 active cases with 11,893 people in home isolation and 4,203 people in quarantine. The number of patients receiving treatment in ICU is 226 and 34 people have been put on ventilator support.
Across the country, long haul transportation and domestic aviation to and from Kathmandu is already in operation, increasing risks for people, especially the elderly population. The festive season is here, and any increased public mobility, epidemiologists and infectious disease doctors fear, will result in more infections and this time in far-flung areas where people have no access to healthcare. The Oli administration needs to replicate what it is doing in Baluwatar. It should increase tests, symptomatic or not, and must take into account the fact that we cannot contain this disease without an effective contact tracing in place.
Let common sense prevail on coronavirus.
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