News Digest – Security and Environment (August 26 – September 1, 2021)

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As of August 31, Nepal’s Covid-19 tally stands at 846,152 and the death tally has reached 10,750. There are 35,591 active cases of infection in the country while 716,306 people have made a recovery. The country recorded 1,664 new cases and 20 deaths on August 31.

The preliminary report of a seroprevalance survey carried out by the Health Ministry has shown Covid-19 antibodies in 68.6 percent of the samples collected from across the country. A Health Ministry official said that the study also suggests that the virus has spread to most parts of the country and highlighted the importance of testing to prevent and control infections as virus mutation remains a risk.

Public health experts have said that it is too soon to interpret what the study means unless a detailed report is available outlining whether antibodies were developed after getting vaccinated or after getting infected. Furthermore, a detailed report which is yet to be made public demonstrates that the virus has rampantly spread across various communities while the efforts to break transmission are poor and ineffective.

Public health experts have suspected that vaccination centers may turn into Covid-19 hotspots. They have long warned that crowding at the centers and mismanaged queues without maintenance of social distancing protocols increases transmission risks. Furthermore, ceratin immunization centers are being run at the same hospitals where Covid-19 patients are being treated. However, reports say that concerned authorities have not taken the warnings seriously nor have they taken any measures to manage these issues.

As the third wave of the pandemic looms large, experts have stressed the need for Nepal to plan for the worst possible scenario. The unpreparedness during the first and second wave proved to be devastating for the country and thousands of people lost their lives. They have suggested the creation of a national strategic reserve of human resources, medical gears, oxygen, essential medicines, etc. According to officials at the Health Ministry, such a reserve is being planned and set up in coordination with the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC).

Armed Police escorting locals on the Postal Highway in Simari, which was inundated by the Doda River. Sixty families have been relocated to safer places after the river floods inundated settlements along the roads. Photo: RSS

Nepal has continued to receive above average rainfall since the onset of monsoon season this year. It has wreaked havoc with continuous occurrences of landslides and floods in various parts of the country. More recently, landslides and floods in Darchula has resulted in three deaths and two missing individuals. Furthermore, floods in the Kalagad and Nijaggad streams have caused huge damages in riverside settlements although human casualties were prevented through evacuation of residents. According to local authorities, floods and landslides have also affected relief work in the area. In Butwal, seven houses were buried in a landslide at Jyotinagar Bamghat on August 30. Although, no human casualties have been reported.

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