Despite India’s heavy daily caseload and fatalities, the country has opened limited domestic and international flights, trains, public transport and shops.
There are also lessons to be learned from Delhi, which used to be a hotspot. The recovery rate there has surged from 55% in June to 90% this month. Delhi’s aggressive testing and tracing and home isolation are measures Nepal could easily emulate.
The ‘Kerala Model’ is also worth noting: public health authorities there prioritised early detection through extensive testing, widespread contact tracing, and 28-day quarantines for everyone infected. Despite being the first state to report a case of Covid-19, Kerala has among the lowest fatality rates in India.
“These models are particularly useful because over half of our cases are still asymptomatic, which means we need to keep up active contact tracing, mass testing and surveillance,” says Sher Bahadur Pun. “We also still need to better communicate safety measures, having a figure that the public trusts endorse masks and distancing will be very effective because lockdowns are not a long-term solution. Behavioural change is.”
Indeed, lockdowns only seem to provide a false sense of security and would have been unnecessary if the public had adopted the safety measures after 21 July. The economic cost of five months of Nepal lockdown, and the lack of treatment of existing diseases threaten to far outweigh benefits of the restrictions.
Recently, the Nepal Health Research Council decided to allow international researchers to conduct Covid-19 vaccinetrials in Nepal as part of a global effort to stop the virus. There are at least 30 vaccines in clinical trials across India.
Says Sameer Mani Dixit: “It looks like we are very close to peaking in Nepal, which is not to say there won’t be sporadic spikes, it will continue to happen until we have a vaccine. But in the meantime mandatorily wearing masks and not crowding will be the way of life into the future.”