It’s that virus againBack to the basics: Mask up, sanitise, maintain distance and get vaccinated.
The coronavirus pandemic has been playing hide-and-seek with the global population for more than two and a half years, and it does not seem to tire. The moment we think we have won over the virus, it appears in a new avatar, as if it was a djinn. After a months-long lull, the virus is back again, this time in the form of an Omicron offshoot named BA.5. Considered a highly transmissible variant owing to three key mutations in its spike protein, the new variant is now a familiar name in testing labs across the world. In the United States, two-thirds of the coronavirus patients were found to have been infected by the new variant, with experts already calling it a new wave altogether; and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying the pandemic is "nowhere near over".
In Nepal, cases have been on the rise continually this past week, with the increase in infection hitting 357 on Tuesday and the total number of active infections reaching 1,982. But this could be a gross underestimation, for a large number of the infected could be in home isolation without getting tested, or are out in the public as their symptoms are mild enough for them to remain unaware of their infection. In cases where the infection is mild and does not require hospitalisation, patients are often found to be avoiding tests altogether. Now that the contact tracing and testing system has become a thing of the past, there is no negating the possibility of the virus spreading in a subterranean form.
And as always, our casual attitude towards the virus has not helped at all. We have come to be heavily reliant on science's capability to fight against the virus—from medication to vaccination. However, we have failed to follow the behavioural etiquette that complements science—namely, following safety protocols so as to prevent ourselves and others from being infected. Science alone cannot bear the burden of fighting the virus; as human beings who are potent carriers of the virus, we have to work in tandem to stop the transmission of the virus. We are too quick to leave the past behind, so much so that what we consider the past is still lingering around our backs.
As of today, 70.1 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated, and 70.4 percent has received partial vaccination. Only 23.8 percent has received booster shots, which is still pretty low considering the threat of the new variant. It has become all too clear that a booster dose has a higher chance of preventing serious infections and hospitalisations. And yet, neither the government agencies nor the citizens themselves seem keen on administering or taking the booster doses. What's more, the government has halted jabbing the 5-11 years age group in several districts due to a syringe shortage. It is high time the government expedited administering the vaccines, including the booster doses, to the entire eligible population. We have had enough of the virus; we must work actively to subdue the potency of the virus through science as well as behavioural change. Lest we forget, it's back to the basics once again: Mask up, sanitise, maintain distance and get vaccinated.