Foreign nonprofits offer help to combat potential health crisis in event of Covid-19 outbreakThey have proposed helping the government with testing kits, and support for quarantine centres and health facilities.
The International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) have offered help to the government in three areas to combat potential health crises in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
So far, the country has only a single confirmed case of coronavirus. The government has been screening every passenger entering the country from Tribhuvan International Airport and suspended visa on arrival for nationals from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran.
But, the country is already reeling from a shortage of health equipment and materials, including medical masks and hand sanitizers.
“We have got a formal proposal from the Association of International Non-Government Organizations in Nepal promising to help in three areas—home quarantine and kits, quarantine centre support and health facility support,” said Durga Prasad Bhattarai, information officer at the Social Welfare Council, the regulatory body of non-governmental sector.
The council will forward the proposal of INGOs to the Ministry of Health and Population within a day or two for consideration, Bhattarai said.
Under the area of home quarantine and health kits, the foreign NGOs have said they would be providing food, water and medical aid to individuals or families who are infected and need to be separated from other family members or the community.
The association has promised to make available various testing kits from countries where they are headquartered and other countries where they have operations.
“Foreign NGOs also don’t have such kits, currently, and they can explore kits from various other countries,” said Shiva Poudel, a consultant for health and disaster thematic committee at the association of foreign NGOs. “The government should allow us to import these items.”
They have also offered help to the government in quarantine at hospitals, Poudel said. “We don’t have human resources but we can help the government human resources with training.”
He said that the international NGOs could also support in preparing separate rooms in a building to ensure isolation and food and medicine supplies for patients inside the hospitals during the quarantine period.
According to the council, the international INGOs have proposed supporting the government in building isolation centres under the quarantine support centre.
As many as 175 Nepalis evacuated from Wuhan, China and the crew members of the plane that brought them back, were kept at Kharipati, a Bhaktapur-based building of Nepal Electricity Authority, for more than two weeks as a preventive measure. After none of them were found to be infected by the coronavirus, they were allowed to go home.
According to Poudel, the international NGOs are also ready to help the government by running awareness campaigns on the coronavirus, which could be effective, given the wide presence of foreign NGOs and their local partner NGOs.
“We can also help by developing an appropriate mobile app,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Association of International NGOs on Wednesday held internal discussions on helping the government combat a potential health crisis arising from the novel coronavirus.
“The foreign NGOs have agreed to conduct mapping of materials they currently have that can help combat the coronavirus,” said Reshma Shrestha, program coordinator at the association.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.