As individuals, we must continue to take responsibility for protecting our loved ones by following public health guidelines for another few months at least. History shows we will not know for certain that Omicron has arrived in Nepal until after the variant is endemic in the population. These proactive measures can slow the spread, starting now:
- Mask up in all public places and when in close contact with members of at-risk populations. Doubling up on masks is a good idea, given the extremely contagious nature of Omicron.
- Avoid touching the face with fingers, and frequently wash hands – at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
- Avoid all public gatherings. If not, maintain social distance of at least 1m.
- Support the local government by following protocols and encouraging elected officials to take proactive measures to protect the community. Volunteer to spread awareness or set up facilities if you can, and be ready to support your community when the next wave arrives. We Nepali are great at using ‘source-force’ to get things done – now is a great time to use your connections and networks to encourage people in positions of influence to take proactive steps to prepare for Omicron.
In the age of Covid, it’ is every country and every community for itself. Delta taught us in Nepal not to trust promises of international aid to save us from the pandemic. We are on our own, and we only have each other to get through this.
The Delta wave, like the 2015 earthquakes, also taught us that when the going gets tough, Nepalis come together and achieve miracles. Remember the community groups that blossomed across the country to create isolation centres, distribute food and supplies, and invented improvised oxygen concentrators.
Remember the FCHVs and community members who risked their lives to travel into every corner of the country to deliver vaccines to the most vulnerable citizens. This time, we have an opportunity to harness this grit and compassion when it is needed most – before the disaster strikes.
Ramu Kharel is an emergency medicine physician at Brown University and has worked extensively in the frontlines of Covid-19. He runs a non-profit organisation HAPSA in Nepal that is working on Covid response.
Ben Ayers is an American citizen based in Nepal for over 20 years.