News Digest – National Security & Climate Change (March 25-31, 2021)

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According to the health ministry, as of March 31, Nepal’s COVID-19 tally stands at 277,147 and the death tally has reached 3,030. There are 1,390 active cases of infection in the country while 267,408 people have made a recovery.

Raging wildfires around the country have deteriorated air quality also causing the weather conditions in Nepal to fluctuate. According to reports, Nepal has been experiencing hot and dry conditions, receiving only 25% of normal rainfall in the season, creating conditions for wildfires. The recent forest fires in the country have been among the more severe cases as of late. An official at the department of Forest and Soil Conservation said that the country is witnessing one of the worst forest fire seasons with a recorded 479 wildfire incidents reported on March 24.

Kathmandu became the most polluted city in the world on the afternoon of March 25. Smoke and haze has enveloped the valley with the air quality reaching hazardous levels even in the following days. Simultaneously, there has been a rise in number of COVID-19 infections. Health experts have suggested that the rise in number of cases has been exacerbated by the depleting air quality in the valley since air pollution is known to cause respiratory diseases and the virus also specifically targets respiratory organs.

According to reports, a private firm has asked permission to import 500,000 jabs of Covaxin, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, which is also India’s homegrown and government-backed vaccine. Although the vaccine has already received the approval for emergency use in Nepal, there is uncertainty around procurement plans. Officials at the health ministry have said that since the estimated cost of the vaccine is around USD16 per dose, price has become a prohibitive factor.

Indian Army has gifted 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccine to the Nepali Army. The Indian Army chief General MM Naravane presented COVID-19 vaccines to his Nepali counterpart Purna Chandra Thapa via video conference in a ceremony held at the Nepali Army headquarters. The vaccines arrived in Nepal on March 30 and was handed over to the Nepali Army by the Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra.

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