Amid virus surge, experts say time has come to prepare for worst case scenarioThey are worried about lack of quarantine facilities on the border with India as cases there continue to rise and warn of the price of a lackadaisical approach to contain the spread of infections.
On Saturday, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital opened a 35-bed dedicated Covid-19 ward, after all beds of the existing ward with 16 beds were occupied.
Doctors at the hospital said that the new ward was opened to address the growing inflow of the infected patients.
“On Friday, we were forced to refer four patients to other hospitals due to lack of beds in our hospital,” Dr Santa Kumar Das, coordinator of Covid-19 management team of the hospital, told the Post.
After the decline in the new cases, the hospital had shifted the focus from Covid-19 to non-Covid-19 patients last year and started to admit the non-Covid-19 patients in the Covid-19 ward. But now the hospital administration has decided to start a new ward to address rising new cases.
Doctors at the hospitals providing treatment to the patients infected with coronavirus said that a number of new cases have been increasing several fold. And what is alarming is all the patients seeking care in the hospitals are serious.
“Only the seriously ailing infected patients come to our hospital for treatment,” Dr Sagar Rajbhandari, director at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, told the Post. “Those moderately ailing patients stay at home. ”
Public health experts say that time has come to start the preparations for the worst case scenario. They also warned that the new wave of the infections could be too deadly and a lackadaisical approach will be too costly for the people and the country.
“Neither have test numbers increased nor has the contact tracing resumed,” Dr GD Thakur, former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, told the Post. “Isolation and quarantine facilities have already been dismantled and despite the rising case number and growing risks, concerned authorities do not seem serious to address the problems.”
According to Thakur, Nepal could face a similar or worse situation than last year’s due to the lackadaisical approach of the government.
The Ministry of Health and Population has been performing antigen tests on only 10 percent people returning from India, where the number of new cases of infections are exploding.
On Friday India recorded 89,129 new cases, according to the media reports. Nepal recorded 128 new cases and one death in the last 24 hours. Active cases stand at 1,613 throughout the country. So far the country has recorded 277,768 cases and 3,032 deaths.
Doctors say that the exact number of active cases could be 10 times more as only one in 10 infected people might have been seeking tests.
People returning from India are reaching their homes in villages straight away using public transportation, as authorities have not set up quarantine and isolation facilities in districts bordering India.
Even in the random tests of the people returning from India, a significant number of people have been found to be infected with the coronavirus.
“Like last year, infection rate here will reach a peak one month after it does in India,” Thakur added. “This government takes the health of people too lightly and we people have to pay the price.”
The Health Ministry has not even increased test numbers.
Officials at the ministry concede that the majority of the people seeking tests are healthy people seeking tests to go abroad. People have stopped following safety measures— wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing among others and stopped following suggestions of governments.
“Rise in the number of new cases at present is responsible for our behaviour, and I think it takes some time to reach infections here from India,” Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, director of Research at Center for Molecular Dynamic, told the Post. “Authorities had asked us not to celebrate Holi by gathering in crowds, not to participate in assemblies but we ignored the suggestions. We are not wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing. Our behaviour is responsible for the current spike.”
Even if the public have not been following the suggestions, it is the responsibility of the authorities concerned to convince them and encourage them to change their behaviour, doctors say. For that authorities must work to show that the government is working seriously and without taking the people into confidence it is impossible to contain the spread of the pandemic.
“If we do not start the preparations at a war footing, we will again reach the same position to ask people to go to hospital, only when they become unconscious [as hospitals could be overwhelmed],” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research unit at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. “ We should start preparation to prevent such scenarios.”