'Dying in the streets': New nation facing major Covid crisis

·News Reporter
·3-min read

India's Covid crisis is beginning to spill over into neighbouring countries as Nepal struggles to cope with an influx in infections.

The nation of about 30 million people, which lines nearly 2,000 kilometres of India's northern border, has witnessed a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in the last three weeks, with 8,287 new infections confirmed on Saturday.

While the increase may seem minor in comparison to India's 400,000 plus cases a day, Nepal's population is vastly smaller than India's 1.4 billion. According to the ABC, Nepal currently has the highest effective virus reproduction rate at 1.79. 

"The ground reality is horrible and depressing," Kanchan Jha, founder of Sano Paila, a non-profit and non-governmental organisation, told China Global Television Network.

"Nepalis' worst fears are coming true as a nationwide surge of infections is pushing the health system to the brink of collapse."

Nepalese army personnel in PPE suits salute to pay tribute to COVID-19 victims before cremating their bodies near Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, May 7, 2021. Across the border from a devastating surge in India, doctors in Nepal warned Friday of a major crisis as daily coronavirus cases hit a record and hospitals were running out of beds and oxygen. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Nepalese army personnel in PPE suits salute to pay tribute to COVID-19 victims before cremating their bodies near Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. Source: AP

Nepal heath system in crisis as Covid surges

Government officials revealed over the weekend the nation was now reliant on other countries for its oxygen supply amid an acute shortage.

The Nepal Airlines is scheduled to send a plane to China on Monday to take back the oxygen cylinders donated by China, said the officials.

Dr Jyotindra Sharma, chief of Hospital for Advanced Medicine & Surgery in Kathmandu, warned the nation was a fair way from the peak of the crisis.

“In the extreme situation, people could be dying in the streets," he said.

Nepal's cases have exploded in recent weeks. Source: Worldometers
Nepal's cases have exploded in recent weeks. Source: Worldometers

More than 3,500 people have died since the pandemic began, 400 of them in the last two weeks alone, according to official figures.

In Bheri Hospital in Nepalgunj, a city bordering India's Utter Pradesh state, health workers are working tirelessly as the patient flow continues to grow.

"The hospital is overloaded, we are treating patients at each and every corner of the building," Badri Chapagain, a doctor at the hospital, revealed.

Authorities accused of slow response to India's outbreak

One issue for the nation is its open border with India which communities commonly travel across for work and to visit family.

Even as cases rose in neighbouring India, mass gatherings including religious festivals, political meetings and weddings continued in the country, with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli facing further scrutiny over his handling of the pandemic.

Nepal shut down almost all flights last week and has imposed lockdowns or partial lockdowns in 80 per cent of its districts to curb infections.

Nepalese devotees participate in Biska Jatra Festival in Bhaktapur, Nepal, Saturday, April 10, 2021. During this festival, also regarded as Nepalese New Year, images of Hindu god Bhairava and his female counterpart Bhadrakali are enshrined in two large chariots and pulled to an open square after which rituals and festivities are performed. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Authorities have faced criticism for allowing festivals to go ahead despite India's surge in infections. Source: AP

The country's tourism industry suffered a devastating blow in 2020, and this year climbers at its big money-spinner Mount Everest have tested positive, raising fears the virus may ruin a a hoped-for bumper season on the world's highest mountain.

Last week, Nepal banned Indians from using Kathmandu as a transit after Indian nationals increasingly flew out of Kathmandu following flight restrictions from India.

Less than 10 per cent of the country's population has received a Covid-19 vaccine despite its January rollout, with supply issues from India feared to be complicating its progression.

With wires

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