News Digest – National Security (May 13 – 19)

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According to reports, as of May 19, Nepal’s Covid-19 tally stands at 472,354 and the death tally has reached 5,411. There are 114,529 active cases of infection in the country while 352,414 people have made a recovery. The Ministry recorded 8,136 new cases and 225 deaths on May 11.

Health experts have long suggested that highly infectious and possibly more fatal variants of the virus known as known as B.1.617.2, and B.1.617.1 are responsible for the surge in cases across Nepal. The Ministry of Health and Population has now confirmed the detection of sub-lineages of double mutant variants of the coronavirus in the swab samples of infected individuals. The WHO has classified the B.1.617 variant as a global concern with the potential of being resistant to antibodies.

With Nepal’s health system buckling under the pressures of the second wave, infected individuals are scrambling for support on their own. People have been compelled to isolate and be treated at home without seeking medical help as hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients and are facing a crisis of oxygen and other medical supplies. Experts have expressed fear that high risk patients such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions could die at home.

Nepal Army managing the body of the deceased from Coronavirus in front of the crematorium in Pashupati area of ​​Kathmandu. Photo: RSS

Cases continue to surge across Nepal without any significant leads on when Nepal will be receiving additional vaccines. The government failed to secure vaccines elsewhere after India imposed restrictions on the export of vaccines to meet domestic demands. Nepali authorities are now saying that COVAX is the only hope. Even the director of the WHO has said that Nepal has emergency needs and that vaccination is a key to controlling infections. However, reports suggest that UNICEF, the in-charge of supplying vaccines for COVAX, is overwhelmed and is calling on G7 countries to donate their surplus vaccines.

Nepal’s hospitals are facing an oxygen crisis wherein they do not have enough oxygen supply to treat patients. The shortage of oxygen has compelled hospitals to discharge its patients and turn away others. On May 12, the government ordered private hospitals with over 100 beds to set up their own oxygen plants within 2 weeks. However, according to proprietors of private hospitals, it is not possible to meet the deadline as an oxygen plants were never discussed as a part of the infrastructure of many hospitals. Reports also say that even government-run hospitals do not have their own oxygen plants.

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