Public health experts warn against blanket lifting of restrictionsAs authorities mull over resuming long-route public transport services, experts say such a move could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases everywhere.
As authorities have been mulling over resuming long-route transport services throughout the country, public health experts have warned of a catastrophe as Nepal’s case positivity rate is still too high and the percentage of fully immunised people against coronavirus is very low.
They, however, said that public transportation can be resumed in the areas where new cases have declined, active cases are fewer and the positivity rate is also low.
“Removing all restrictions blanketly or resuming long distance public transportation at once throughout the country will not be practical,” Dr Sarad Onta, a public health expert, told the Post. “It is more serious than resuming public transportation in a particular city or resuming domestic flights.”
The Covid-19 Crisis Management Center has recommended the Cabinet to resume long-route public transport services.
According to Onta, removing all restrictions at once will run the risk of virus spreading in the areas which have no cases or fewer cases.
Public health experts say that restrictions should be removed gradually but any decision regarding lifting the restrictions should be supported by evidence and science.
“New cases are increasing, case positivity rate is still high and a small percentage of people have been fully vaccinated,” Dr Anup Subedee, an infectious disease expert, told the Post. “Authorities should know the actual risks and the possible consequences of the decisions they are taking before deciding anything.”
Doctors say even if the number of new cases have declined compared to April-May, new cases are gradually increasing and case positivity rate is high.
On Saturday, Nepal reported 1,310 people tested positive in 6,858 polymerase chain reaction tests (over 19 percent positive of the total tests). The Health Ministry said that 565 others also tested positive in 3,208 antigen tests. In the last 24 hours, 21 people died of coronavirus infection.
The World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned that the world is in the ‘early stage’ of Covid-19 third wave as cases of the Delta variant are soaring.
“The virus continues to evolve, resulting in more transmissible variants,” said Tedros, “Last week marked the fourth consecutive week of increasing cases of Covid-19 and after 10 weeks of declines, deaths are increasing again.”
The Delta variant is now in more than 111 countries and the UN health agency expects it to soon be the dominant coronavirus strain circulating worldwide, if it isn’t already.
The Ministry of Health and Population said that Delta and Delta Plus variants of the SARS-CoV-2 are circulating throughout the country.
The World Health Organisation said that Delta variant is one of the main drivers of the current increase in transmission fuelled by increased social mixing and mobility and inconsistent use of proven public health and social measures.
With the new cases starting to decline, and the resumption of vaccination against the contagion, authorities have been lifting restrictions gradually.
Apart from restrictions in a few sectors—academic institutions, cinema, sports events, long-route public transport services—daily activities have become normal. With the loosening up of the restrictive measures, crowds have been increasing in public places and people are behaving as if there is no pandemic or the pandemic is over.
Doctors say that the coverage of immunisation should be improved and authorities must know the infection rate and active cases in all the areas before removing all restrictions and allowing long distance transportation.
“Even if the immunisation campaign has started, vaccine coverage is very low as of now,” Dr Keshab Deuba, a public health epidemiologist, told the Post. “Authorities should focus on administering vaccines to the maximum number of people and enforcing safety measures.”
So far, 2,91,280 people have received their first doses of vaccines and among them 11,26,870 people received both doses.
The Health Ministry said that 3.2 million doses of the Vero Cell vaccine will arrive in Nepal within July 30. Nepal has purchased 4 million doses of BBIBP-CorV vaccine developed by an affiliate of the state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm under a non-disclosure agreement and delivery would be in a phased manner. Flights are now scheduled for July 21, 22 and 24, according to the Nepal Airlines.
Apart from that the country is also expected to receive 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca type vaccine from Japan, which it has announced to provide through the COVAX facility.
Authorities are rolling out a single shot Johnson & Johnson Vaccine throughout the country soon. The United states of America provided 1,534,850 doses of the Janssen vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson through the COVAX facility.
Although more doses of vaccines are coming in the coming days, a huge population will still be deprived of the vaccine.
The World Health Organisation said that the world is continuing to see a shocking disparity in global distribution of vaccines and unequal access to life-saving tools.
The government has decided to inoculate 72 percent of the 30 million population, as 28 percent are under 14 years of age. However, less than 4 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated so far.