Cases skyrocketing . . .
As the world closely watches India’s escalating COVID-19 crisis, a second wave is hitting neighbouring Nepal. Thursday marked the country’s highest-ever number of daily cases, at 8,600, compared to just 266 a month ago. Similarities with India’s growth rate are alarming, as the highly transmissible double mutant variant B.1.617 has also been detected in Nepal. Following a slowdown in cases earlier this year, the Nepali government relaxed restrictions, allowing religious festivals, political events, and social gatherings. Thousands gathered to celebrate events like Pahan Charhe and Bisket Jatra and also travelled across the Nepal-India border for the Kumbh Mela festival. The country of 31 million people has a fragile health-care system, a shortage of medical professionals, and a low vaccination rate, which makes a containment strategy urgent if the country is to avert a crisis like that unfolding in India.
Crisis hits Mt. Everest base camp . . .
Over the past month, the virus has spread to remote areas, including the base camp of Mt. Everest. However, the Tourism Department denies this, possibly out of concern about the impact on revenue generated from foreign climbers. The billion-dollar alpine climbing industry was already impacted when the climbing season was cancelled during the first wave. Mountaineers have expressed concerns about this recent outbreak, as many COVID-19 symptoms can be mistaken for altitude sickness or the common cold. The lack of a COVID-19 testing facility at the Everest base camp makes detection and contact tracing process doubly challenging.
Indians struggle for oxygen . . .
Nepal has made urgent requests to the international community for COVID-19 vaccines to continue inoculating its population. However, one of its largest contributors – India – is busy fighting a battle of its own. With less than 10 per cent of its 1.3 billion population vaccinated with at least one dose, India set two grim records today: 412,262 daily cases and a death toll of 3,980 people. The federal and state governments’ inaction has forced Indians to resort to their own devices to acquire oxygen, find hospital beds, and help loved ones survive this inferno. According to the World Health Organization, India accounted for 46 per cent of the coronavirus cases reported worldwide last week, and health experts fear that a third wave is inevitable.