Nepal struggles to contain health crisis triggered by Covid-19 surge

By Sangam Prasain

Kathmandu, May 20 (EFE).- The worsening Covid-19 crisis has driven Nepal’s weak health infrastructure to the brink of collapse as hospitals and crematoria are overwhelmed by record numbers of daily infections and deaths.

The Himalayan nation on Thursday recorded 8,227 coronavirus infections and 190 deaths as it battles a virulent second wave of the pandemic.

The new numbers brought the overall caseload to 488,645, while the death toll increased to 5,847 in a country with fewer than 30 million people.

Nepal Wednesday recorded the highest 246 deaths caused by Covid-19 in a single day.

There is a crematorium near Pashupatinath, a famous and sacred Hindu temple located on the banks of the Bagmati River.

A thick cloud of smoke billows throughout the days and nights from the area as cremators work almost tirelessly to cremate the dead as per the Hindu tradition.

“We burn more than 100 bodies (in 24 hours). All of them are victims of Covid-19,” Subash Karki, the chief coordinator at the crematorium, told EFE.

Besides Karki, there are 35 cremators at the crematory in the temple premises, one of the seven Unesco heritage sites of the Kathmandu Valley.

“I have never seen over 100 bodies at one place in a day even during the earthquake,” said Karki.

The electric crematorium, installed in January 2016, would usually receive an average of 10 bodies a day.

But the spate began in early May, causing even a shortage of space.

“We have set up 16 new platforms on the banks of the iver and another 35 in the open space inside the compound to burn bodies on wooden pyres,” he said.

Karki said they had hired 23 new staff to burn the bodies.

“We are burning bodies 24 hours a day.”

People in the landlocked country have died waiting for beds, as hospitals buckle under the strain amid an acute shortage of life-saving oxygen that has aggravated the crisis.

“My heart broke seeing how people are lying in Teku Hospital struggling to breathe,” Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the United Nations Resident Coordinator of Nepal, tweeted on Tuesday.

The authorities have imposed lockdown until May 27, barring all activities and travel except for essential services.

The government also suspended international flights.

On Tuesday, Nepal confirmed it had detected a more virulent variant widely thought to have originated in India.

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