Red Cross sounds alarm over Nepal's COVID-19 crisis

COVID testing in Kathmandu
COVID testing in Kathmandu Nepal

COVID-19 testing in Kathmandu., iStock

As neighboring India's massive surge continues, health groups warn of a similar situation evolving in Nepal, where the military is adding hospital beds and COVID-19 outbreaks have reached some Mount Everest base camps.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic that Nepal's cases last week rose by a staggering 137%. Meanwhile, officials warned that parts of the Americas are still in the thick of the pandemic, with severe cases trending younger.

Nepal part of South Asian COVID crisis

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies (IFRC) said today that urgent international support is needed to prevent a worsening humanitarian crisis in South Asian countries.

Many of Nepal's hospitals are full and overflowing with COVID patients, with towns near the border with India unable to handle the increasing number of people who need treatment.

"Nepal is recording 57 times more cases than this time last month," IFRC said, adding that the country's test positivity rate was 44% last weekend, a sign that thousands of infections are undiagnosed and prompting fears of mass deaths if virus spread isn't stopped.

IFRC's Nepal chairperson Dr Netra Prasad Timsina said in the statement, "What is happening in India right now is a horrifying preview of Nepal's future if we cannot contain this latest COVID surge that is claiming more lives by the minute."

Nepal's military is working with local governments to build a 200-bed isolation center as part of a 2,000-bed extension at a hospital in Sudurpashchim province on the India border, where many Nepali migrant workers have returned from India, according to CNN.

In related developments, climbers have been evacuated from Dhaulagiri Mountain in the Himalayas over reports of an outbreak at the base camp, and an outbreak has also been reported among climbers at Mount Everest, where crowded base camps are located, according to the Washington Post.

India again adds 400,000 new cases

Meanwhile, India's cases topped 400,000 again today, with at least 406,628 new cases, with nearly 3,900 deaths. In its weekly snapshot of the pandemic, the WHO said yesterday that India accounted for 46% of global cases and 25% of deaths last week.

Modeling projections from epidemiologists at the Indian Institute of Science suggest that India could have more than 403,000 deaths and more than 50 million cases by Jun 11, according to CNN. If cases continue at that pace, India's case total, but not deaths, could pass the United States' numbers.

India is seeing fewer B117 variant cases but more caused by the local variant, B1617, the head of the country's National Centre for Disease Control told Reuters.

Goa state, a popular tourist destination on the country's western coast, has one of India's highest test positivity rates, with one in two people testing positive for COVID in recent weeks, government officials told Reuters.

The impact of India's surge spilled over to London as G7 country leaders gather for a meeting. Two members of the country's delegation tested positive, prompting India's foreign minister and team to self-isolate, according to Reuters. India is attending as a guest.

Global cases hold at record levels

The world's COVID cases last week remained at record levels for the second week, while deaths rose for a seventh week in a row, the WHO said in its weekly situation report. The countries reporting the most cases are India, Brazil, the United States, Turkey, and France.

At a media briefing today with the WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, the group's director, warned that hospitals across the Americas are still dangerously full and that adults of all ages are becoming seriously ill, with mortality rates jumping sharply in younger adult age groups.

Several Americas countries—not just Brazil—are still struggling, and hospitals in Colombia's major cities are reaching capacity, she said. Cases are rising rapidly in the Guianas and Argentina, with Guatemala and Costa Rica experiencing steep increases. Etienne said Puerto Rico and Cuba are driving outbreaks in the Caribbean, where cases are also on the rise on smaller islands.

More global headlines

  • In Sri Lanka, rising COVID activity prompted lockdowns in 4 more districts, bringing the total under lockdown to 13 of the country's 25 districts, according to CNN.

  • Australia's New South Wales state reported its first local case in more than a month, which involves a man in his 50s who had no known links to quarantine hotels but had recently visited the suburbs of Sydney, according to Reuters.

  • The Seychelles health ministry is reporting a worrying rise in cases, though more than 60% of its population has been vaccinated, according to the BBC, which said a third of the recent cases involved people who had received two vaccine doses. In January, the country began using doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine, donated by the United Arab Emirates.

  • The global COVID total topped 154 million and is at 154,618,960 cases, along with 3,232,776 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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