COVID-19: Emphasis on Adherence to Health Protocol

According to a report released by the Ministry of Health and Population every day, the infection rate of COVID-19, which has been declining since last December, has increased over the last two weeks of March. According to the BBC, the second wave of COVID-19 was seen in India from mid-March. It is estimated that the number of infected people in Nepal has started increasing after the second and third waves of COVID-19 infection in India. Due to the open border, uninterrupted movement of the people, and non-testing at the border of COVID-19, there is a suspicion that the infection will reach the villages of Nepal as in the past till the end of March.

The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Nepal on January 23, 2020, and the government had announced a lockdown on March 24, 2020, after the second person was diagnosed positive with COVID-19. However, various district administration offices and local governments of the country had issued prohibitory orders. The lockdown had been initiated only for a week but it continued till July 22, 2020. INSEC had started informing the general public about COVID-19 by publishing daily updates of COVID-19, 10 days after the initiation of the lockdown.

coviddata-yearly
Source: Excerpt from worldometer- April 1, 2021

It’s been a year since we started publishing daily updates on the COVID-19 infection, details of good work done by local governments and local administrations, information about the citizens in distress due to COVID-19, and expert advice on health precautions. You can click here to see the daily updates related to COVID-19. The Ministry of Health and Population of Nepal has requested in a press release on March 21, 2021, not to hold meetings, gatherings, seminars, meetings, and gatherings across the country. Similarly, the statement also instructs   “not to crowd in public places, wear a mask and use sanitizer and maintain a physical distance of public transport or else action will be taken as per the Infectious Diseases Act, 2020.” Similar information has been issued by various district administration offices as well. According to the experts, the condition of COVID-19 has returned to its previous state within a year. Dr. Baburam Marasini, an infectious disease specialist, says that the situation will be serious if the lessons learned from the past are neglected. He says there is no alternative to learning from past mistakes and taking health precautions.

COVID-19 Infection Statistics and Nepal

The COVID-19 has spread in many countries of the world. The United States, Brazil, India, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Spain, and Germany are among the top 10 countries in the world infected with COVID-19. Within these 10 countries, there are 83,099,680 people infected with COVID-19 as of April 1, 2021. Worldometer states that 130,174,617 people have been infected worldwide. Within the SAARC countries, 13,009,900 people have been infected and Nepal ranks fourth in terms of the number of infected people. According to worldometer, Nepal is ranked 50th among the most infected countries. Worldometer has 221 countries on its list. Less than one percent of Nepal’s population has been infected with COVID-19. A total of 2,275,540 swabs has been tested in Nepal as of April 3, and 277,461 people have been infected with COVID-19. Therefore, out of the total number of tests conducted, 12 percent of people were diagnosed positive.

How many people have been vaccinated against COVID-19?

As of April 1, 2021, 1.79 million people in Nepal have already received the first dose of vaccine against COVID-19. This is 5.93 percent of the total population of Nepal. The Ministry of Health has stated that the second vaccination will be starting on April 20.

Status of insurance payment of COVID-19

According to the Insurance Committee, insurance claims worth NRs Five Billion has already been paid. According to the data published by the Insurance Committee till March 20, the insurance companies have paid the claimed amount. So far, 86,612 people have claimed COVID-19 insurance in the insurance companies and 53,324 people have received the payment. The insurance company has paid NRs 5.14 billion. According to the committee, 22,403 files have been sent to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) of the Department of Health Services for verification, and 13,353 files have been verified and have reached Shikhar Insurance which has been working as a bridge between the Insurance Committee and other Insurance Companies. Similarly, right now 9,163 files are being processed in EDCD.

COVID-19 and human rights

Due to the infection of COVID-19, all kinds of human rights issues of the individuals are comparatively overshadowed. Even though the right to health is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution of Nepal, Nepali citizens have not been able to access this right easily due to the pandemic. According to INSEC representatives, there have been problems such as mistreatment of health workers, lack of medicines, and health workers in health institutions. There were obstacles to the access of human rights mentioned in the constitution and it caused problems even in the daily life of the citizens. The quarantines were not well maintained, thousands of Nepalis returning from India were not treated properly, health care was neglected, human rights defenders, including health workers, journalists and teachers were beaten and abused, and violence against women and children increased public during this period. A mandamus was issued by the Supreme Court in the name of the government to make the COVID-19 test free. The Constitution of Nepal states that every citizen has the right to receive free basic health care from the state. On October 1, 2020, after the Ministry of Health and Population declared that they could not treat the patients of COVID-19 for free, hospitals treating the patients for free had published a list of amounts to be deposited before a patient could be admitted. Demanding to review the Supreme Court’s order that the citizens have a constitutional right to receive free testing and treatment for the COVID-19 infection, the government had requested a review on October 1, 2020. The Supreme Court had dismissed the petition on November 5, 2020. With this order, the government was forced to provide free treatment for the patients of COVID-19.

The way forward

It is necessary to make proper use of the social, economic, and political changes, consciousness, and increased literacy in Nepali society. It is necessary to continue the good practices of the government which were introduced over the period of one year and to also improve the aspects that need to be improved through the government mechanism. It is important to follow the health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection within a period of one year, and it is necessary to raise public awareness for this. The willingness of all three levels of government is needed to provide alternative employment to those who lost their jobs due to the closure of factories and industries during this period. The governments of all three levels must put forward a policy of protection for the suffering of the common people. Following the health, managing the daily routine as per the advice of experts can prevent the infection of COVID-19.

Ramesh Prasad Timalsina

April 15, 2021