To save lives, Nepal’s most urgent need now is oxygen. Not just cylinders, but oxygen generators, concentrators and liquid oxygen. Most infected people are not succumbing to Covid-19, they are dying because of low oxygen saturation in the blood, and lack of hospital beds — patients who need not have died of coronavirus.
Dire as the situation is in the cities, Nepal’s pandemic has now infiltrated the remotest villages where there is no hospital care and no oxygen. The virus is preying on people already suffering malnutrition, previous ailments, and decades of structural state neglect.
In Rolpa, Humla and other remote districts, between 80-90% of PCR tests are coming back positive, and it takes a week to get results. Patients are either not isolating, or not following precautions.
Kathmandu’s doctor-to-patient ratio is 1:850, but in rural Nepal it is one doctor for every 15,000 people, and hospitals and medical staff there are already overstretched.
Close to 60% of all swabs collected nationwide are from Bagmati Province, with nearly half of them in Kathmandu Valley, says epidemiologist Lhamu Yangchen Sherpa.
She adds: “There just aren’t enough tests and contact tracing is minimal, official total cases and fatalities are grossly underestimated.”