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Nepal’s community transmission phase

With growing cases of Covid-19 in Nepal, 12 districts in the country have entered the phase of community transmission, the Ministry of Health and Population said on Tuesday. In a press briefing, the country’s Public Health Advisor, Dr Suresh Tiwari said, “12 districts and out of them, 4 have more than 1000 active cases till today. Combining it with other 8 districts, these 12 districts hosts around 73 per cent of the active cases. This has signalled that these 12 territories, or the pocket areas which we also can call hotspots have been adversely infected, with this we have reached to the point that there has been Community Transmission in these areas,” Tiwari said.

The districts under the community transmission include Morang, Sunsari, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Chitwan and Rupandehi. Dr Tiwari also pointed out the rate of transmission amongst women had gone up from 5 per cent to around 22-23 per cent and fatality of elderly population soared to around 4 per cent.

A total of 1069 new cases of infection were reported throughout the country till Tuesday. Kathmandu Valley alone reported 481 cases of infection. With newly reported cases, Nepal’s COVID-19 count on Tuesday reached 40,529. The COVID-19 death tally of the country stands at 239 while a total of 22,178 people have recovered from the virus so far.

Community-level transmission of Covid-19 is now likely in all major population clusters of Nepal. Biratnagar and Birgunj, the country’s fourth and fifth-most populous cities, have re-imposed near-complete lockdowns. Syangja district of Gandaki province has also witnessed a troubling spurt in infections. The federal government says it is planning a significant ramp-up in testing. People are justifiably sceptical.

Over the last two weeks, the number of people from Kathmandu Valley seeking COVID-19 tests at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital has suddenly risen, and consequently, according to doctors, the Valley is reporting more and more coronavirus cases.

“Until two weeks ago, the majority of people seeking tests were from outside the Valley,” said a doctor at Sukraraj hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But the recent data show locals from core areas like Kalimati, Balkhu, Koteshwor, Ason, Bhothahiti and Thamel among others have tested positive.” Reportedly, public health experts have long suspected community transmission and have urged the government to acknowledge the facet and take adequate measures.

WHO Representative Jos Vandelaer talked about Nepal’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, “What is happening is that there is some level of transmission within the community. We are not yet ready to say that there is the widespread transmission. But at local levels, we have seen people who are getting infected without having a travel history. But if we dig deeper we have a number of people who have not travelled but are in contact with someone who has travelled. That is not to say that we do not have community transmission at all, but it remains localised. It is not yet widespread across Nepal, it is sometimes in clusters, for example within families.”

By Karishma Gwalani

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