Do you have flu-like symptoms? It could be CovidHealth Ministry asks all to wear face masks in public places. Covid suspects should self-isolate immediately, doctors say.
Every day, around 400 people, including college students, visit Sano Didi Kitchen and Khajaghar, an eatery in Thapathali, Kathmandu for lunch. But very few of them have face masks on.
“Those who come here wearing face masks open it after entering and sit with others without caring about social distancing and risks,” said Sunita Shrestha, proprietor of the eatery. “They also share cigarettes with each other.”
With the decline in new cases of coronavirus infection following the third wave of pandemic that hit the country in January this year, both the general public and authorities concerned have become complacent. People gave up safety measures—wearing face masks, maintaining social distance and hand washing—and have been behaving as if there is no longer a pandemic in the country. Authorities too seem indifferent to enforce safety measures.
But new cases of Covid-19 have been spiking at an alarming rate of late—the number of cases has doubled in the last three days. There have been concerns about whether BA.5, a Covid subvariant, is responsible for the spike or the new BA.2.75 has already entered the country.
Both BA.5 and BA.2.75 subvariants of Omicron are considered highly contagious and can evade immunity.
Although the Ministry of Health and Population has not yet confirmed detection of BA.2.75 in Nepal, experts say any variant discovered in any part of the globe has every chance to enter the country due to high global mobility.
Last week, the Ministry of Health and Population confirmed the BA.5 subvariant in Nepal, a mutant that is more transmissible than previous variants.
On Wednesday, 206 people tested positive for the coronavirus, including 177 in 2,082 polymerase chain reaction tests and 29 in 1,093 antigen tests. The daily test positivity rate of PCR tests is 8.5 percent.
Doctors suspect that the number of infected people could be far more than the number provided by the Health Ministry, as contact tracing has not been carried out. Most of the people undergoing testing are those going abroad.
As of Wednesday, active cases stand at 1,005 in the country, up from 93 on June 14.
Experts say the rise in new cases at an alarming rate could be an indication of the virus’s resurgence.
With the spike in Covid-19 infections once again, Dr Niraj Bam, associate professor at the Institute of Medicine, says that anyone who has flu-like symptoms—cough, runny nose, fever and body ache—might be infected with Covid-19. “If you too have such symptoms, isolate yourself immediately, which helps to protect members of your family and others,” Bam said.
Officials at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital said that the number of people infected with Covid-19 needing hospital care has been rising of late.
Doctors at other hospitals, including Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, which treats infected patients, reports a rise in new cases of late.
“Today a person from Kathmandu contacted me for advice,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit of the hospital. “All six members of his family have been suffering from Covid-like symptoms and one has tested positive. The number of people contacting me for advice has been increasing these days.”
According to Pun, when a family member tests positive for coronavirus and other members have symptoms, not everyone goes for tests. And in such a situation, despite a whole family becoming positive, only the person who undergoes the test appears on the government record although the true number of infected is higher.
Also, since the start of the pandemic, many people have taken the Covid safety measures including the mask mandate lightly.
Some people wear face masks on the chin, some put it in their pocket and wear it when they are alone and remove the face mask to talk when they meet with acquaintances.
Such behaviour does not protect them from transmission. It not only jeopardises their lives but also of those they come in close contact with.
Several doctors the Post talked to said that this is high time for officials to enforce safety measures strictly again.
“We can assume that the virus has been spreading rampantly in communities, as many of our acquaintances have beens suffering from Covid-like symptoms,” said Dr Janak Koirala, an infectious disease expert. “Had the authorities concerned been carrying out more tests, more people infected with the virus would have been detected.”
Koirala said that authorities concerned should not wait until the last hour to enforce safety measures and launch awareness drives.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has requested all to wear face masks mandatorily in public places.
“We have been always asking everyone to follow safety measures properly,” said Dr Roshan Pokhrel, secretary for the Health Ministry. “As cases have been growing again of late, we have requested everyone to wear face masks compulsorily in public places.”