Kathmandu, Nepal – The Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, is overcrowded – so overcrowded that two patients often sleep in the same bed – as the second wave of COVID-19 worries the country’s health security.
Health experts and medical professionals in the past described the condition as “near-apocalyptic” in the face of declining medical beds and ventilation, a campaign of self-defense activity declining and the death toll so high that cremation remains.
“We have been helping patients all over the hospital. We are also using the garage to accommodate as many patients as we can, ”said Beli Poudel, a nurse at Sukraraj.
“We do not turn on any patient, we try to treat them even if we have limited energy,” Poudel told Al Jazeera, adding that more than 120 COVID-19 patients are being treated in a 104-bed hospital, which has only 24 ICU beds. The hospital, with a large number of patients most affected by the second wave of the epidemic, had already increased its prevalence.
For several weeks now, most of the workers in Sukraraj – the only places in Nepal that know about heat and communicable diseases – live in hostels or hospitals far from their families.
With over 21,000 tests on May 19, Nepal found 8,173 cases of COVID and 246 deaths, the highest number recorded since the outbreak last year. Health experts believe that actual numbers may be higher because testing remains relatively low. More than 5,600 people have died since the outbreak, nearly 2,000 in the past few weeks, according to government statistics.
The plague has affected Kathmandu Valley and the western border of Uttar Pradesh, India. The region is one of the smallest in Nepal, home to many indigenous and religious minorities.
Shahbaz Ahmed, a native of Nepalgunj in western Nepal, lost his three siblings – Zahir, Ejaz and Imtiyaz – to coronavirus in the first week of May.
All three brothers in their 40’s were receiving treatment at Bel Hospital’s state-of-the-art hospital.
“The doctors could not save them, despite their best efforts. Maybe it was the will of Allah, ”Shahbaz told Al Jazeera by telephone.
Zahir, the youngest of seven brothers, was a 19-year-old former member of the world. “He (Zahir) was the most powerful of all the brothers,” Shahbaz said.
Shahbaz, who feels alone as a family, has destroyed a crippled disability.
“I commend the health workers for risking their lives to save others. But I think the government and politicians are not doing their job, ”he said.
Biren Budhathoki, a resident of Dang in western Nepal, said the delay led to the death of her 38-year-old cousin on May 14.
Most hospitals, except major ones in cities, do not have polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are essential for timely diagnosis and prevention of preventable deaths.
“By the time we got the PCR test results, my cousin had already had pneumonia. He died shortly after being transferred to a COVID-19 hospital from the Salyan nursing home, “said Budhathoki.
The growing number of lawsuits in the country has raised alarms, with Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli and the health minister publicly acknowledging that hospitals are full of patients.
“The disease is getting worse; it has been difficult to provide patients with the necessary hospital beds, “Oli wrote in the Guardian newspaper, urging foreign countries to help.
Experts link the rise in corruption in Nepal with the second most devastating wave in northern India. Until mid-April, the death from COVID was only one. At 6.51, the daily death toll of Nepal’s millions of people is now the worst in South Asia.
Bed shortages are a common problem in Nepal, where there are approximately 18,900 general, 1,450 ICU and 630 respiratory beds across the country. New Delhi, India’s capital city, has more than 4,000 ICU beds.
Anup Bastola, senior consultant at Sukraraj Hospital, told Al Jazeera that all patients in the ICU were already ill.
“Although we have 24 ICU beds, we only have 12 ventilators. All of them need a respirator but we could not provide them, ”he said.
The number of doctors per capita in Nepal is one of the lowest in the world, with 0.17 per 1,000 people, while India has 1.34 per 1,000 people.
At least 12 ICU patients have lost their lives due to a lack of oxygen since last week, according to media reports reports.
Pramod Paudel, a doctor at Bharatpur Hospital in central Nepal, said his hospital admits less patients than it can handle, accepting only 144 patients even with 200 people, due to air pollution.
“Sometimes when we run out of oxygen, we worry that we might not be able to get as many patients as we need. We can’t take more patients because of shortness of breath, “Paudel told Al Jazeera.
In recent weeks, medical care, including oxygen tanks, has been pouring in from all over the world, but officials say there is nowhere to meet their needs. Many Nepalese people living abroad have moved here. About a third of Nepali’s population works abroad.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health and Population confirmed that it had identified the third type of COVID in the country, B.1 617.2, the first known type in India known to be highly contagious. This new change was found in 97% of the sample collected from 35 governments in the country. The other two types are B.1.617.1 and B.1.1.7.
“We can live somewhere on the island because of the prevalence of the disease, according to local estimates, between 40 and 50%,” said Basu Dev Pandey, one of Nepal’s leading experts and former head of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the auspices of the Nepal Ministry of Health and Population.
More than 80% of those infected will recover, according to epidemiologists, but the rate of recovery is not a clear indication of the epidemic.
It’s a million deaths that show how good or bad things are.
Nepal is doing very well in South Asia. pic.twitter.com/NuhGUbYyAn
– Arpan Shrestha (arpanshr) May 20, 2021
“The risk of disease is very similar to in India. In addition, we share borders that remain open where cross-border traffic remains uncontrolled. The flights between the two countries are still in operation, ”said Pandey. Kathmandu has banned some international travel.
Health experts in Nepal had warned in March of the extremely dangerous dangers of coronaviruses entering through India.
The warning was inappropriate, with Nepal sharing nearly 1,700km (1,100 miles) in the vicinity of India and India. Millions of Nepalese people are working in Indian cities such as Delhi and Mumbai and many have begun to return in April as several Indian states have set off protests over the second wave of COVID.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is criticizing them for putting politics at the forefront of the country’s social crisis – dissolving parliament and splitting up political opponents who want to oust him. At the same time, the Prime Minister continues to prescribe anti-retroviral drugs, even saying that the people of Nepal have adequate protection against the virus.
At a rally in Kathmandu last month, the Prime Minister said, despite warnings, spraying hot water in boiled guava leaves can prevent COVID. “Even vaccines cannot guarantee 100% safety,” Oli said.
Gehendra Lal Malla, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, said Oli’s vain tactics and weak words about the immune system had led people to take the virus lightly.
“It was clear that Nepal did not have the best infrastructure in the West, or China and India, but there was plenty of time and money to buy ICU beds and ventilators. But Oli was more concerned with defending his role than saving lives,” Malla told Al Jazeera.
Although experts have called on the government to speed up vaccination, the most well-known vaccine trials have not been anticipated after the Serum Institute of India (SII) suspended the availability of AstraZeneca jabs, despite their approval. SII – the world’s largest vaccine maker – has suspended exports to priority India, which has killed thousands of people in recent months.
Nepal, the poorest 30 million countries, has vaccinated at least two million people, mainly front-line workers, since the vaccination began on January 27. So far, the country has received more than three million vaccines, including 800,000 Chinese and 348,000 COVAX doses. and WHO.
Defending the government’s handling of COVID, former Prime Minister Mani Chandra Thapa told Al Jazeera that all political parties should be held accountable for focusing on the game rather than fighting the epidemic.
“It is true that the government could have done better. But let us not forget that some political parties are making obstacles in an attempt to overthrow the government in the midst of the epidemic. As a result, we must all take responsibility and move forward in the fight against the virus, ”said Thapa.