Coronavirus spread is not slowing down, these four indicators demonstrateCritical care facilities are still overwhelmed, positivity rates haven’t declined, death rates have increased and 15 percent of healthy people seeking to go abroad are testing positive.
Last week, a 28-year-old man from Kathmandu was rushed to the emergency ward of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, after his health condition started deteriorating fast.
The man, who had tied the knot the previous week (on December 7) was infected during his wedding, according to doctors at the hospital.
“His oxygen level was at a life-threatening level when he was brought in,” Dr Niraj Bam, associate professor at the Institute of Medicine, told the Post. “He had to wait three days at the hospital’s emergency ward due to lack of vacant intensive care unit beds.”
With the government giving up all measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection, people have returned to their pre-pandemic lives and taking part in weddings and feasts, which have been fueling the spread of the coronavirus infection.
The pandemic which has already killed 1,795 people throughout the country and infected 254,514 is far from over, and there are four indicators to demonstrate this, experts say.
The lack of sufficient intensive care unit beds and ventilators for critically ailing patients is the first evidence that the coronavirus infection hasn’t slowed down. Secondly, even as testing has declined, the positivity rate (positive cases/total test) has not. This shows that new cases are still surging.
On average, around 5,000 polymerase chain reaction tests are being carried out daily across the country, and nearly 1,300 of these test subjects are healthy individuals, most of them youths getting tested to travel overseas.
The Ministry of Health and Population has been incorporating the test results of these healthy people in its daily Covid-19 briefing to give a false impression that infection rates are declining.
The ministry has also been including the number of tests administered to health workers, individuals who need to attend court hearings and government staffers serving at the Prime Minister’s residence and office—all of whom get tested regularly.
“The infection rate among healthy people seeking tests to go abroad is around 15 percent. This is a strong proof that new cases are surging,” an official at the Health Ministry told the Post, asking not to be named. “Death rate has increased around four folds compared to the same period last year.”
After the Health Ministry decided not to test the deceased to establish their cause of death, people dying in homes are being cremated without their kin knowing whether they were infected or not.
“Around 80 bodies are being brought for cremation to Aryaghat every day,”Ghanshyam Khatiwada, executive director at the Pashupati Area Development Trust, told the Post. “During the normal period, we used to get only 30 everyday.”
Apart from Aryaghat, people cremate bodies at more than a dozen cremation centers in Kathmandu. Khatiwada said that relatives of the deceased have to wait two to four hours to get their turn to cremate their dead ones.
“Like in the past, critically ill people are not coming to Kathmandu Valley for treatment. They used to contribute significantly to the dead count in the Valley,” the Health Ministry official said. “Most of the deceased, these days, are Valley residents.”
Public health experts say there is no reason to believe that infection rates of highly contagious coronavirus have been declining, as no intervention measures are in place. After halting free testing, authorities have also stopped contact tracing, without which it is impossible to slow down the infection.
“What are we doing to contain the infection?” Dr Govinda Ojha, former director at the Department of Services, told the Post. “Are we performing sufficient tests? Are we effectively contact tracing? Are we following safety measures properly?”
New cases of Covid-19 have been surging even in countries which have successfully flattened the curve and are working seriously to contain the infection.
Some doctors believe that infection rate, which was very high until a month ago, might have been slowing down, but a second wave might follow soon.
“Highly contagious viruses like coronavirus spread in waves,” Dr Prabhat Adhikari, infectious disease and critical care expert, told the Post . “Even if the first wave is over in Kathmandu Valley, the second wave will start soon, as all businesses have resumed and people have stopped following safety measures.”
Instead of enforcing measures to contain the pandemic, authorities concerned have allowed the virus to spread in the communities.
After the government gave up all measures, free testing, contact tracing and the Health Ministry requested patients not to seek treatment unless they are critically ill, people have stopped seeking treatment.
Doctors attending to patients infected with coronavirus said the infection’s death rate has increased due to the tendency to seek treatment only after the patient becomes critically ill.
“We may see huge loss of lives in the next three months at a proportion we had not seen in the past year,” Dr Bhagwan Koirala, chairman of Nepal Medical Council, told the Post. “We should not underestimate the risk and keep following safety measures.”