Experts warn reopening cinemas and schools now is inviting second virus waveMinisters including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli have been attending meetings and gathering crowds ignoring the risks.
Of the 12 patients admitted to Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital a month ago, the condition of six is still critical.
The hospital has been unable to discharge even the other six patients, even after they tested negative for the coronavirus, as they suffer from breathing complications.
“The number of patients in critical condition has not declined,” Dr Sagar Rajbhandari, director at the hospital, told the Post. “The risk of infection has also not declined.”
The doctor’s comment comes as a meeting of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre’s directorate on Sunday evening decided to discuss the prospect of reopening businesses and services such as schools and movie theatres, which have remained shut since March last year, during the upcoming Cabinet meeting.
However, officials said they haven’t taken a decision on reopening schools and cinemas. “We have not taken any decision, but agreed to discuss the opening up of businesses that still remain shut, during the Cabinet meeting,” Mahendra Prasad Guragain, secretary at the CCMC, told the Post. “As the number of new cases has been declining, we have agreed to discuss allowing businesses to resume.”
With the government halting free testing and contact tracing, the number of polymerase chain reaction tests carried out each day has declined by several fold and so have the new cases. But despite the decline in new cases, the number of serious patients who need intensive care and ventilator support has not declined, which prove that the infection rate has not declined whatever the officials claim, experts say.
Apart from schools, cinemas and fitness centres in metropolitan cities, most businesses are back to the pre-pandemic state. Schools in some of the municipalities reopened months ago.
Public health experts said that reopening everything without following safety measures is like inviting a second wave of coronavirus infections too early. Rajbhandari said that all the efforts and resources put in to contain the spread of the virus in 2020 would go to waste if people dropped their guard now.
Epidemiologists also question the government’s decision in the past few days to reopen all businesses across the country. “People who should be discouraging large gatherings are doing the opposite by overlooking safety measures,” Dr Keshab Deuba, an epidemiologist told the Post.
As new variants of the coronavirus believed to be more contagious than the old variant spread across the world, including in neighbouring India and China, authorities should behave more responsibly, doctors say. Nepal has been speeding up to reopen businesses even as several countries in Europe have reintroduced restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus and its variants.
According to Deuba, it’s not time yet to let the guard down as the country has not become coronavirus-free.
With the dissolution of Parliament, the numbers of political rallies, protests and gatherings have been increasing throughout the country. Even ministers, including the prime minister, responsible for containing the spread of infections and saving lives, have been giving speeches in closed rooms in front of large crowds.
“Those taking part in political meetings and protests might be young people, who may not become serious about the infection but they could take the virus to their homes and jeopardise their elderly parents and children,” Dr Arun Kumar Koirala, professor at Pokhara University, told the Post.
“People in authority and concerned agencies should strictly enforce safety measures if they have to let businesses open.”
“Opening up everything without knowing about the exact condition is unwise,” Koirala added. “Even if the infection has reached its peak and is declining now, time has not come to give up safety measures.”
Doctors say that contagious viruses like SARS-CoV-2 spread in a wave and the second wave could be more severe than the first. Some countries which have successfully controlled the virus have been reimposing the restrictions and shutting down schools after new cases started to rise.