News Analysis: Health experts say sealing possibilities of community transmission key to minimize COVID-19 in Nepal

Nepal has been recording three figure COVID-19 cases each day in recent days with 421 new cases on Sunday alone, taking the case tally to 9,026 with 23 deaths.

There is no stop to the additions in the number nonetheless; health experts have suggested that Nepal can minimize the spread if it succeeds in sealing the possibilities of community transmission.

Dr Basudev Pandey, director at Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) in a daily press briefing on Sunday said that the country has not recorded any community transmission. "Most of the infected had gone for foreign employment and had come back with the infection," he informed.

According to EDCD, 95 percent of the total infected had come to Nepal from abroad. "Of the returnees, a maximum number of people entered Nepal from India, but 98 percent do not have symptoms which means there are very less serious cases in Nepal," said Pandey.

Similarly, Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief medical officer at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, said that he has not found any traces that suggest community transmission. "If community transmission gains momentum, Nepal will witness more cases than it has recorded so far," he added.

"We have crossed the third month since the series of infections started. People had expected the worst of scenario but the death rate is very low as compared to other countries," said a public health expert, Sameer Mani Dixit. "Looking at the world statistics, the number goes down from the fourth month and Nepal has only a few weeks left to get there. I feel that the number will gradually decrease after Nepal crosses the fourth month."

However, Dr Pun stressed that the number will continue to go up the chart if the influx of people from India does not stop and the scope of PCR test remains limited.

"If these parameters are well controlled, the number can be contained in Nepal," he told Xinhua on Sunday.

As the Himalayan country has recently relaxed the lockdown and has allowed limited movement of people to run the economy, health experts have suggested people to regularly wash their hands, wear masks and maintain social distancing in public places.

Pun, who is also a virologist, said: "Quarantine facilities need to be upgraded for all the returnees so that they abide by the rule which contributes to the sealing of community transmission."

Meanwhile, Dixit suggested that, as the world has started moving forward with safety measures, Nepal should do the same. "We cannot hide nor can we win over it, there are instances that the countries which thought they were free from this had to face it again, So we need to live with it with precautions," he told Xinhua. 

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