Kathmandu : While Covid-19 coronavirus infections have significantly slowed in China, they are rapidly spreading around the globe, prompting countries to step up measures to control the spread and the UN health agency to warn that “this is no time for complacency.”
With countries like the US sounding the alarm, Nepal, with its frail health system, cannot afford to rest, as public health experts say that it is not a question of 'if'’ the virus comes to Nepal but 'when'.
Amid the growing threat of a possible outbreak, the Department of Health Services on Thursday directed all concerned health agencies to cancel all scheduled meetings and focus on ways to deal with a worst-case scenario.
The department had held a high-level meeting on Wednesday, where it had discussed Plans B and C in case of an outbreak. Plan B envisions the response to the infection of just a few people.
“In such a scenario, we will have to entirely vacate particular hospitals,” Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, director-general of the department, told the Post.
Plan C deals with a worst-case scenario—a massive outbreak
“In our Plan C, we will have to shut down schools, colleges, public transport, and all public functions and gatherings,” said Shrestha.
Wednesday's meeting also decided to increase the number of health workers at the international health desk at Tribhuvan International Airport and strengthen health desks at eight land crossings.
According to Shrestha, the government is in close contact with all UN agencies, including the World Health Organization's country office in Nepal, and other international aid agencies, which have been supporting the country's health care system. Apart from flights from China, the department has also directed the airport health desk to screen air passengers coming from South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Japan.
While Shrestha said that the department was serious about the threat of the outbreak, he admitted that they had yet to decide which hospital to vacate first, and what exact measures were being put in place to prevent a worst-case scenario.
After failing to procure a sufficient number of masks and protective gear due to global shortages, the department has now asked the World Health Organization for help. The UN health body will be providing a thousand masks on Thursday, said Shrestha.
Dr Bikash Devkota, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, conceded that the country is at high risk of the outbreak and said that the ministry had asked various agencies to begin preparation accordingly.
“We have offered a budget and have assured help in easing rules and regulations to facilitate a timely decision,” said Devkota.
With temperatures rising, experts had hoped that the outbreak would decline but the increasing number of infections around the world have dashed those hopes. Infections have now been detected in Bahrain and Kuwait, where temperatures are over 38 degrees Celsius.