Nepal underestimated its second wave of Covid-19 infections and needs to ramp up its response, Nepali billionaire Binod Chaudhary said last week. He also stated that the country should postpone elections until the situation has stabilized. “I must admit, as a nation, we probably underestimated the intensity of the second wave,” he said on Friday.
Covid cases in the South Asian country increased in April and continued to reach new highs in May. According to data from local health authorities, Nepal had 557,124 coronavirus infections and 7,272 deaths as of May 30. The situation is similar to what is happening in neighboring India, which has the world’s second highest number of cases.
According to Chaudhary, chairman of Nepal-based CG Corp Global, the first wave was severe enough that the country was “crippled” for three months before recovering. “It’s worse this time,” he said. According to him, Nepal’s medical system is under severe strain due to a lack of oxygen, ventilators, and intensive care beds.
According to World Bank data, Nepal had only 0.749 physicians per 1,000 people in 2018. In the same year, India had 0.857 and the United Kingdom had 2.812. According to Our World in Data, inoculations in Nepal have been hampered by a lack of supply, with only about 2.25 percent of the country’s 29 million residents fully vaccinated. “We were banking on India,” Chaudhary explained.
India is a vaccine manufacturing hub and has donated vaccines to neighboring countries. Nepal also bought doses, but India halted exports in February to focus on domestic demand. “We’re looking for alternative sources of supply,” he explained. “We must accelerate all of our efforts.”
He also stated that CG Corp Global has mobilized its network and is assisting in the delivery of oxygen and ventilators to Nepal. The company’s nonprofit arm has donated approximately $1 million to assist with the health crisis.
When it comes to vaccines, Chaudhary has urged the world to “give special emphasis to countries such as Nepal.”
“This country must be kept safe and secure,” he said. Nepal has borders with both India and China and is “strategically located, yet small,” he says, predicting that the problem will be resolved “pretty quickly.”
Various countries have sent medical supplies and personal protective equipment. According to reports, China has donated 800,000 doses of a vaccine developed by Sinopharm to Nepal. Chaudhary, an opposition member of parliament, stated that he wishes that all parties would prioritize Covid-related challenges and work to make Nepal safe.
“Unfortunately, that is not the case,” he said. Nepal’s parliament was dissolved in December, but the decision was reversed after the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional.
However, on May 22, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved parliament and called for a November election. According to Reuters, the opposition Nepali Congress party has stated that it will launch a political and legal fight against the dissolution. According to Chaudhary, the timing is unacceptable to the majority of opposition parties. He believes it should be held once the country’s health and economic situation have improved. That could happen in less than six months, but only if Nepal receives vaccines and medical equipment, he predicted. As the number of cases continues to rise, Chaudhary believes that calling for an election is ironic and unfortunate.
“Even though the house is on fire, we’re still arguing about who gets to sleep in the master bedroom.”