It was on 23 January 2020 that the first Covid-19 case was detected in Nepal. Two years later, the country is on the cusp of a third wave.
The time to sound an alarm about a new surge is long over. Action should have been taken months ago. All the government can do now is to launch a massive campaign to inoculate the unvaccinated, offer boosters to frontline workers, the elderly, and people in densely populated areas.
Evidence elsewhere, including in neighbouring India, show that while the Omicron strain is 12 times more transmissible than previous variants, most of those infected do not need critical care in hospitals – unless unvaccinated or immuno-compromised.
Cases are rising fast in Nepal, doubling every 2 days to 3,075 new recorded infections on Wednesday. The positivity rate has soared 10 times in a week to 23.5%. At this rate, there will be 12,000 new confirmed cases by 16 January, which will be higher than the peak of the second wave in May 2021.
“With Omicron now spreading in the community, we don’t need to gene sequence anymore,” says Epidemiology and Disease Control Division director Krishna Prasad Paudel.
He is hoping Omicron will show a similar trajectory to elsewhere, and those infected will have milder symptoms compared to Delta. The new variant mostly impacts the upper respiratory tract, with lungs largely unaffected, hence lessening the need for oxygen and ventilators.
However, Nepal’s low vaccination rate (50% partially, 40% fully) means that individuals need to continue taking precautions with masks and distancing.
Read also: “Nepal has all the conditions for an Omicron surge”, Nepali Times