COVID-19 Overview - A closer look at the current crisis in Nepal

COVID-19 Overview - A closer look at the current crisis in Nepal

Nepal is currently reeling from the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis. On 19th of May, Nepal recorded 246 deaths, the highest in a day during the pandemic. Movements are restricted as 75 out of 77 districts in the country have imposed lockdown/prohibitory orders as of 28th May.

On 18th May, the government announced another variant - B.1.617.2 in Nepal, confirming that there are now three known COVID-19 variants currently active. Around 40% of the Covid-19 tests are coming back positive as cases continue to rise above 500,000, with more than 7,000 Covid-19-related deaths reported so far. The flow of patients into health facilities has increased the demand for oxygen, ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers, with most hospitals and health centres facing a critical shortage of supplies. Both public and private hospitals in Kathmandu are overwhelmed with patients and are left with no choice but to turn away patients for lack of beds, equipment, and medical supplies. In rural areas, where there is a lack of hospitals, people are dying at home without being diagnosed or treated.

The experts have predicted that the case numbers and the number of deaths could reach 800,000 and 40,000 respectively by mid-July. Moreover, only 1.27% of the country’s nearly 30 million residents are fully vaccinated.[1] The President of Nepal has issued an ordinance which now allows the government to impose a state of emergency in the country to contain further spread of COVID-19, if required.

The crash of the healthcare sector and the extended month-long prohibitory orders also give rise to an economic downturn. Micro, small, and medium enterprises, which are the backbone of a developing country like Nepal, have been hit hard by the pandemic; this will likely cause mass enterprise destruction and loss of jobs tied to them. According to a report commissioned by UNDP in Nepal on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, around three in five employees have lost their jobs among enterprises surveyed, with a 95% fall in average monthly revenue. While it is unrealistic to try to save all enterprises from permanent closure, the ones that can return to positive cash flow relatively sooner are the ones that will be important in driving the overall economic recovery. Such enterprises will be instrumental in leading the overall economic recovery as their rebound would also have positive spill overs and linkages.

Humanitarian groups and donor agencies around the world have been responding to the Covid-19 crisis since the start of the pandemic. One To Watch is doing its part in helping the Nepali MSMEs to bounce back to revenue and combat the crisis via the Covid-19 MSME Fund. OTW facilitates interest and collateral-free loans and provides much-needed BDS support to these companies. As of 28th May, the fund has received applications from over 1,346 MSMEs and disbursed loans to 71 companies, out of which 21 companies have been onboarded with BDS support!

[1] Handicap International (21 May 2021)