10 Aug Coronavirus update: second Covid wave in Nepal
Coronavirus updates from Nepal: The second wave of Covid-19 cases in Nepal began to impact the country in April 2021, and has quickly become more widespread and severe than the first wave in 2020.
This page will include the latest updates about the impact of Covid-19, as we receive information from our partners in Nepal.
Updated on 10th August 2021:
The official number of Covid cases fell to about 11,000 per week in July, but has started to rise again in the past few weeks (with some concerns of a third wave looming) as some of the lockdown restrictions have been relaxed.
There are still over 150 deaths per week being recorded, and some reports of hospitals having limited capacity due to patients who are still being treated or taking longer to recover from the Delta variant which drove the second wave in April and May.
However, thankfully the supply of vaccines has improved and the number of fully vaccinated people in Nepal more than doubled to about 2 million (approx 7% of the population) in July – although rates are generally still much lower in remote districts. News reports have also highlighted the difficulties that people with disabilities face getting to vaccination centres.
Please pray for:
- A continued supply of vaccines for Nepal, and for them to be administered quickly and fairly, especially for vulnerable or marginalised groups.
- Protection from any other significant rises in Covid cases and deaths.
The response activities supported thanks to our Coronavirus Crisis Appeal are continuing, with 4,000 people receiving help across various districts. Heavy rans have made travelling to deliver this support even more challenging in recent weeks, so please also pray for safety as our partners continue to reach people in need.
INF Nepal’s Covid response activities include INF/UK-supported working areas such as Bajura and Kalikot, with adaptations being made to on-going community health and development projects so that people can be supported in the most relevant ways through the challenges of the Covid pandemic.
Update on 9th July 2021 (based on news from Asal Chhimekee Nepal):
- Almost all the districts are in lockdown and the government has recently extended this, as well as warning the public to stay alert as a third wave of the virus is being predicted.
- Recent statistics shows some increase in recovery rates, but no significant decrease in daily infections. The infection rate is around 30-40% of people tested, although not many people with symptoms go for PCR tests.
- Covid-19 infection is more of a problem in villages. In slum areas, cases with positive tests are more prevalent now, especially as the variant driving this second wave of Covid in Nepal is more transmissible than the earlier one.
- Getting PCR test reports on time is still a problem. Due to the overflow of tests, this can take as long as 13 days.
- Trauma and psycho-social problems, often very acute, are becoming very common due to the pandemic and lockdowns. Recently, a retired army soldier aged around 65 and a young boy aged 11 committed suicide in Raju’s neighbourhood.
- Churches have been closed for more than a year due to lockdowns. Some churches connect with people online, but this is not possible for all due to the lack of technology and online access. For small churches located in rural areas people are really isolated and deprived of fellowship.
- Children and young people are especially impacted by the pandemic, with physical, mental, and social issues becoming more apparent. This situation is very difficult, particularly for low income families along with the other challenges they face.
- People living in the most vulnerable situations are struggling for survival: single mother headed families, families with chronic sickness, people living with disabilities, and elderly people who need regular medication and hospital follow-ups.
Update on 22nd June 2021 (based on news from Asal Chhimekee Nepal):
Although the number of reported Covid cases and deaths in Nepal has started to fall, the damage being done by the second wave of the pandemic in Nepal is far from over.
The latest update from Asal Chhimekee Nepal (ACN), a key partner in the Covid response work our supporters are funding, describes the distressing situation.
The situation is especially acute in rural villages, where many people with symptoms are self-isolating but not getting tested and unable to access medical care.
There are also psychological dangers and mental health issues, including suicide cases.
The most vulnerable families are suffering most during lockdowns, and children are struggling due to extended school closures and lack of social interaction.
There are also personal stories of grief, including a 28-year-old woman who lost her husband and needed ACN’s help to afford the medical treatment he had received.
Update on 21st May 2021 (from ReliefWeb – UN):
Now three weeks after new prohibitory orders were imposed in Kathmandu Valley (and since in 75 of 77 districts) daily new infections have ceased their exponential growth, but remain between 8,000-9,000 per day. National test positivity has declined slightly over the past week to just over 44%, but is over 50% in four of seven provinces, reaching as high as 59% in Karnali. RT-PCR testing capacity has reached a ceiling, and supplies of testing kits are running low, making re-supply of PCR kits and ramping up of Antigen RDT testing key priorities.
The need for oxygen remains a primary concern, while roughly 3,300 cylinders were received this week from China and Oman, these represent a small fraction of the 60,000 identified as needed by the Government of Nepal. Support for transportation both internationally and within Nepal for refilling is ongoing.
While successful in slowing the rise in infections, prohibitory orders have limited the mobility of humanitarian responders across clusters. Mobility restrictions, as well as prevalence of infection among key staff and service providers have slowed response activities. Access to sufficient PPE and prioritization of these workers for vaccination will be necessary to ensure the continuity of humanitarian work, both during the COVID-19 response and in any potential monsoon related response.
The second wave has hit poor, vulnerable and excluded groups, especially those dependent on daily labour, particularly hard. Women’s groups shared that people are facing increasing fear, disease, mental stress, hunger and starvation and loss of livelihoods in the current context. In support of the Government’s response the humanitarian community launched its COVID-19 Response Plan this week.
Update on 20th May 2021 (from INF/UK):
Today we launched INF/UK’s Coronavirus Crisis Appeal, to protect people most in need from the impacts of the second wave of Covid-19 in Nepal.
We have also published a statement which includes how we see the role of INF/UK and our partners in response to the devastating effects of the pandemic – read more here.
Update on 18th May 2021 (from INF Nepal):
Sadly Nepal, following India, has now entered a second wave of COVID-19. Since early April virus cases have surged, with active cases currently at 97,008 (compared with a low of around 1,000 in January and February).
The shocking rise in the number of Covid-19 infections is straining Nepal’s fragile healthcare system. Nepal’s new daily new cases have risen 1200% since mid- April. According to data published by the Ministry of Health and Population (11 May), out of 18,400 swab tests, 9,271 cases were Covid positive. The case positivity rate is consistently around 50% which is the highest rate across the globe at this moment, suggesting that there is both a high degree of transmission in the community, and insufficient testing.
In the last 24 hours alone, a total number of 9,198 new cases were reported, with 214 deaths across Nepal. The Ministry of Health warned that this level of infection is going beyond the capacity of Nepal’s public health system. The second wave of cases fuelled by the double mutant virus is more potent with young people and children infected.
The government has appealed to everyone to wear the mask, avoid going out of the homes unnecessarily, maintain physical distance and strictly follow the health and safety guidelines. The government has extended the ongoing prohibitory period further by a week till 12 May. Domestic flights are also halted. This will hopefully limit the spread of infection in the country.
Most of the major hospitals in the country are swamped with an influx of COVID patients – more than half are in the capital Kathmandu. As the COVID-19 cases are spiralling out of control, experts warn this epidemic could overwhelm Nepal’s fragile health system. Officials are worried that if the country is unable to break the chain of transmission, densely populated cities and districts like Pokhara, Banke, Kapilvastu, Surkhet might face a similar situation that Delhi is facing right now due to the devastating second wave of coronavirus cases.
Nepal launched its vaccination campaign back in January, giving doses from India and China to nearly 2 million people. But, with 30 million and limited access to vaccines, Nepal will need support from the international community. It is becoming equally challenging for the government to maintain the regular supply of oxygens, antiviral and other life-saving medicines to the COVID treating hospitals.
Update received on Thursday 6th May (from INF Nepal):
In the past week, Nepal has seen an alarming rise in cases reporting over 5,000 positive cases daily. In the last 24 hour alone, 8,605 new cases were reported, with 58 deaths across Nepal. The Ministry of Health warned that this level of infection is going beyond the capacity of Nepal’s public health system.
The limited critical care infrastructures and health care facilities have created a havoc situation and unprecedented health crisis across Nepal. Having already faced social and economic hardship during the first wave, this second wave is expected to add even more difficulties in many people’s lives. This situation has further resulted in fear, tensions, pressure and uncertainty among the general public.
There has been an increasing concern among INF’s Community Programme team members based in remote districts, as India faces a national emergency, many Nepali migrant workers working in India are returning back to their homes. Many of these returnees will head back directly to some of INF’s working areas, posing a significant risk of spreading the virus to the communities.
As 46 out of 77 districts have imposed total or partial lockdown, including many of our working areas in the western part of Nepal, making it difficult for us to operate our field level activities. All of the fistula outreach activities and some of the community project activities have been postponed due to these prohibitory restrictions. However, our staff at the field level are in regular contact with our self-help group members and assessing the situations.
Outpatients’ services in Banke and Surkhet Shining Hospitals have been closed as per the Government directives. However, low-level inpatient service and emergency services are in operation. The lockdown restrictions have led to a decreased number of outpatients visiting the Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara.
INF is preparing its strategy to focus its resources on mitigating the risk of COVID-19 in the community and hospital settings. INF has been in close coordination with government health authorities, including Health Directorate, Gandaki and other health officials in Pokhara and other working locations. INF is exploring how best it can support the government’s effort to limit the spread of the disease, support local quarantine and isolation centres. Similarly, on the request from District Administration Office Kaski, INF Nepal supported the District Prison Office of Kaski with three relief tarpaulins.
The concerned Management Committees within INF Nepal has been assigned to monitor the situation regularly and prepare the action plans accordingly. Likewise, INF Nepal Central COVID Coordination Team has been formed. The team’s primary objective is to gather organisation-wide information and provide timely staff care through a clear and concrete understanding of the situation. The team will provide regular updates and communicate with staff members, concerned stakeholders and funding partners about the scenarios. The team is also responsible for identifying the gap and developing a preparedness plan to continue the work of INF to the greatest extent possible while minimising the associated risks.
Undergoing developments within INF Nepal for COVID Response include:
- Reducing the exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, such as limiting interpersonal interaction, encouraging flexible and virtual working space, including work from home modality.
- Introducing the “Get Well Soon Package” for the COVID infected staff to address their immediate need for isolation and boost their morale as a part of staff care.
- Providing comprehensive and coordinated information to staff on preventive health and hygiene measures, staff care support and prayers. Coordinating the regular check-ins with staff at high risk of infection, those infected and isolated for the benefit of psychological and physical well-being.
- Ensure the provision of required supplies and equipment to safely diagnose and treat patients at our hospitals and stock essential health and hygiene supplies in all of INF’s work stations.
- We have placed our staff’s safety, financial and psychological aspects at high priority, and our resources will be used accordingly. We are also looking into how best we can support staff during an emergency, such as the hospitalisation of staff or immediate family members, by providing financial access as per need.
- Mapping out the geographical distribution of impacts of COVID on individuals and communities health and economic status in our working areas to tailor the response work. Similarly, our project teams and Quality Assurance Department teams are revisiting our project activities to make them more COVID specific and to the immediate needs of communities.
- COVID preparation and response proposal task group have been formed. The task group will analyse the needs and prepare the combined proposal to address the COVID preparedness and response plan.
- Fever clinics and telemedicine services at GPH are operational. We are setting up the isolation wards in three hospitals; Green Pastures, Shining Hospitals in Banke and Surkhet, for staff emergency care.
- Ambulance services and vehicles are on standby and operational in all of our hospitals.