Di Valentina Horlander*
Kathmandu. Nepal is a nation of thirty million people, with half a million confirmed cases of COVID19. 97% of those cases have been certified as a new strain of COVID which has emerged recently from India. The strain, named B.1.617, has been a cause for concern accord to the World Health Organization. There has been speculation about where the cause of these increasing cases has been coming from.
Nepal has high levels of migrant workers that, during the year, travel and work in India in order to support their families. Recently, India has placed new travel restrictions between borders due to their own crisis with COVID-19. India is now second highest in the world of recorded COVID cases.
Due to the new travel restrictions between other countries and India, many migrant workers native to Nepal are traveling back to their families in a hurry. The government of Nepal has great concern of this because the workers are not quarantining and are having direct contact with others and their families.
Many of these workers have been exposed to high-risk contact of the disease. At the end of April, the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela came to pass, where tourists and natives bathed in the Ganges River in celebration. There are reports that there was no practice of social distancing and the festival had around three million attenders.
A lot of migrant workers traveling back to Nepal have not been recently tested. The Center for Disease Control has issued a statement that even those who are fully vaccinated should avoid traveling to India and Nepal due to their current situations.
The high COVID-19 levels in Nepal can pose a massive threat to the country. Coupled with the high rates of poverty and lack of medical institutions in local villages, villagers are also not able to do their agricultural work to provide for their families.
Many of the local villages are in the mountains of the Himalayas. Hospitals and health care services are hours away and someone who is sick will not have the energy to walk themselves to seek help. The Nepalian government is considering declaring a national health emergency. A national health emergency can put the entire economy of the nation at risk.
It will put a damper on foreigners entering Nepal as tourist, that spend money and contributing to the economy. Tourism, along with agriculture, is influential to the GDP of Nepal, especially to the small villages that aid visitors scaling the mountains.
Due to the high levels of COVID-19 in these villages, tourists will likely be either banned or discouraged to visit them. As developed countries are lifting stay-at-home orders and travel bans, it is important to acknowledge the challenges less developed countries are facing.
Nepal needs aid and countries that are recovering can now help those which are struggling.
*South Asia Analist
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