To be sure, the pandemic has led to other hardships, often adding to unnecessary fatalities. Many more women have died this year than in 2019 during the lockdown because they have not been able to get to hospital for delivery. Child mortality is similarly up 30% compared to pre-lockdown months because of delayed vaccinations, and parents unable to get sick children to hospital in time. Patients with chronic ailments have also been deprived of treatment. Jobs losses have increased hunger and susceptibility to disease.
The dramatic drop in highway fatalities, however, reveals just how dangerous Nepal’s roads are, and has provided the government an opportunity to take concrete steps to improve road safety even as the government decided to allow long-distance buses to resume their services this week.
The fact that 707 people were killed on Nepal’s roads even despite an almost complete ban on vehicular traffic in cities as well as on inter-district highways between March till August this year shows just goes on to show how deadly Nepal’s highways are.
A paper in the British Medical Journal shows that even before the pandemic in 2017, transport injuries killed more young people in Nepal than from tuberculosis, malaria and HIV combined.
Seven Nepalis died every day in road and highway accidents in Nepal before the lockdowns, and on average, 40 people were injured. Last year, there were nearly 13,000 road accidents in which 2,736 people lost their lives and 10,731 were seriously injured.
But at the same time, Covid-19 has seen rapid spread in the past weeks. Nepal registered the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday with 2,020 new cases out of 11,158 PCR tests conducted across the country, Kathmandu Valley alone accounted for 859 positive SARS-CoV-2 cases, also the highest so far.
But the last 24 hours also saw 871 people returning home after a successful treatment, bringing the total recoveries to 43,820 and the recovery rate to 71%, up from 55% in August. Nepal now has 17,383 active cases.
While the government has decided to further relax the lockdown by allowing domestic airlines to operate, hotels and restaurants to reopen and intercity bus services to resume, the odd-even rule for vehicles is still in force.