Nepali health officials, experts fear spread of COVID-19 as protests erupt amid political turmoil

Source: Xinhua| 2020-12-27 12:51:33|Editor: huaxia

KATHMANDU, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The risk of spread of COVID-19 has increased along with the protests being organized amid political turmoil in Nepal following the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament was dissolved last week, health experts here said.

Nepal's President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the lower house of parliament on December 20 and announced the date of new parliamentary elections for April 30 and May 10 as per the recommendation of the cabinet amid the political infighting within the ruling Nepal Communist Party.

There have been protests in various parts of the country, particularly in capital Kathmandu, which has remained as the epicenter of coronavirus.

Sameer Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson at the Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population told Xinhua on Saturday that the protests and the election campaigns could lead to massive spread of coronavirus. "We have been continuously conveying a message against mass gathering. But, political issues are not something that we can control" he said.

With legal challenges being made at the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the lower house claiming the move unconstitutional, the court will check the constitutionality of the move. If the court okays the dissolution, the Himalayan country will move towards new polls after more than three years since the last elections held in 2017.

"Either in protests or in mass mobilization for the elections, there is a risk of mass spread of coronavirus," Dr. Baburam Marasini, former director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Department of Health Services, told Xinhua on Saturday.

He also expressed fear that the politics could take priority over controlling the pandemic both at the level of the government and the political parties making the fight against the COVID-19 more difficult.

"If the elections are held in April and May, the Nepali government needs to spend big for holding the elections which will reduce resources to be spent for controlling the pandemic such as purchasing the COVID-19 vaccines," said Marasini.

Sagar Rajbhandari, director at the Kathmandu-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital which was converted as the first COVID-19 hospital in Nepal, told Xinhua on Saturday that he feared upward momentum in COVID-19 cases along with mass gatherings although the cases have been decreasing in the recent weeks.

As of Saturday, a total of 257,700 people were infected with coronavirus in Nepal with 6,749 active cases, according to the Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population. As many as 500 new cases were reported on Saturday although the Himalayan country had once reported over 5,000 cases in a single day. Enditem