Health Ministry officials do not know what to do to contain spread of infectionPublic health experts say that the restriction will not work like in the past, as the infection has already reached the household level.
As the new cases of coronavirus continue to rise at an alarming rate, officials at the Ministry of Health and Population acknowledge that serious risk of rapid spread of coronavirus has emerged but do not know what measures to take contain the spread of the infections.
“Risks have been rising seriously, “ Dr Roshan Pokhrel, chief specialist at the Health Ministry said. “We will have to convert private hospitals into Covid hospitals after active cases crossed 25,000.”
The Ministry of Health and Population has recommended a nationwide lockdown after the active cases cross 25,000, as health facilities being used for treatment of the Covid-19 will be overwhelmed after crossing that milestone.
“Existing health facilities being used for treatment of serious patients will not be able to handle additional patients after active cases crosses 25,000,” said Pokharel
As of Thursday there are 21,830 active cases across the country. Doctors say that if the infection rate continues to raise at the current pace active cases will cross 25,000 in less than a week.
Meanwhile the government has been reducing the number of polymerase chain reaction tests it conducts. Of 12,444 tests performed throughout the country on Thursday, 5,000 have been performed by 16 private laboratories, while 40 state-run laboratories have performed only around 7,000 tests.
Of the tests conducted Thursday, 8244 tests were performed in Province 3. Of them 7,628 were performed in the Kathmandu Valley alone.
People suspected to be infected underwent tests paying fees to the private laboratories, as having tests done in the state-run laboratories is not easy.
Pokhrel concedes that the number of tests has declined in the state run health facilities.
“We have directed the laboratories to increase the tests,” he added. “ We do not have a policy to reduce tests or give up contact tracing. Test numbers will increase in the coming days.”
While there are 40 state-run laboratories that conduct PCR tests, only 16 private ones do.
Public health experts say that another lockdown, prohibitory orders and restrictions will not help to contain the spread of infection, as it has already entered the households and communities.
“The same strategy does not always work and the lockdown if imposed again will not give the expected result,” Dr Anup Subedee, an infectious disease expert, told the Post.
“Cases of coronavirus infection might be far more than what we are thinking, as the positivity rate is also very high, which means the virus is spreading very rapidly.”
Of the total tests around 15 percent are being diagnosed positive, which is very high according to doctors. Dr Subedee said that the government should not think of lowering the number of tests and give up contact tracing, as increasing tests and rigorous contact tracing are the only ways to lessen the pressure on the health facilities.
“We cannot stop the infections from spreading but if we perform more tests and continue to focus on contact tracing we can save some lives ,” he added.
Although the Health Ministry Officials do not concede community spread, doctors said that the virus has already entered in the households from the community.
“Infection has spread so much in the community that even the lockdown cannot stop it,” Dr Baburam Marasini, former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control division, told the Post. “ Lockdown or restrictions cannot break the chain of internal transmission which is happening in households.”
At the time the government enforced lockdown on March 24 there was only one active case. On July 21, when the nationwide lockdown was lifted 17,994 had tested positive across the country. There were 2,498 cases in Kathmandu Valley before the three district administration offices in Kathmandu Valley imposed prohibitory orders starting August 19 midnight.
On Thursday the number of total infected stood at 79,728 with 25,103 in Kathmandu Valley and 509 deaths nationwide.
On Thursday 1,911 people have been tested positive across the country with 943 in the Kathmandu Valley.
Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital said that strategic planning was needed to contain the ongoing infection.
“Authorities may resort to another clampdown, but the question remains what next.” said Pun. “Strategic planning is needed to lessen the infection rate, which was not seen during previous prohibitory periods.”