Nepalese billionaire claims Nepal underestimated its second wave of Covid
Health workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant on children during a national government-imposed lockdown against the Covid-19 coronavirus, on a deserted road in Kathmandu on May 3, 2020.
Prakash Mathema | AFP | Getty Images
Nepal has underestimated its second wave of Covid-19 infections and must step up efforts to deal with the crisis, Nepalese billionaire Binod Chaudhary said last week. The country is also not expected to hold its elections until the situation stabilizes, he said.
“I have to admit that we probably underestimated, as a nation, the intensity of the second wave,” he told CNBC. “Street signs in Asia” Friday.
Covid cases in the South Asian country jumped in April and continued to hit new records in May.
As of May 30, Nepal had reported 557,124 coronavirus infections and 7,272 deaths, according to data from local health authorities.
The situation is similar to what is happening in neighboring India, which has the second highest number of cases in the world.
Chaudhary, chairman of Nepal-based CG Corp Global, said the first wave was bad enough and the country was “paralyzed” for about three months, although he managed to recover.
“This time it’s worse,” he said.
Nepal’s medical system is under immense pressure, with a lack of oxygen, ventilators and intensive care beds, he said.
World Bank data shows that in 2018, Nepal had only 0.749 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. This is less than 0.857 in India and 2.812 in the UK in the same year.
Vaccinations in Nepal have been hampered by supply, and only about 2.25% of the country’s 29 million people are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.
“We were counting on India,” Chaudhary said.
India is a hub for vaccine manufacturing and donated pictures to neighboring countries. Nepal also bought doses, but India halted exports in February to prioritize domestic demand.
“We are looking for other sources of supply,” he said. “We need to step up all our efforts quickly.”
He added that CG Corp Global had mobilized its network and was helping bring oxygen and ventilators to Nepal. The nonprofit arm of the company donated approximately $ 1 million to help deal with the health emergency.
Chaudhary called on the world to “give special importance to countries like Nepal” when it comes to vaccines.
“This country must be kept safe and protected,” he said. Nepal shares a border with India and China and is “strategically located, but small,” he said, predicting that the problem could be resolved “fairly quickly”.
Various countries have sent aid in the form of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. China has would have donated 800,000 doses of its vaccine developed by Sinopharm in Nepal.
Chaudhary, who is a member of the opposition, said he wanted all parties to prioritize Covid challenges and try to secure Nepal.
“Unfortunately, this is not the case,” he said. Nepal’s parliament was dissolved in December, but the decision was overturned after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.
On May 22, however, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved parliament and called for elections in November. Reuters reported that the opposition congressional Nepalese party has announced that it will launch a political and legal fight against the dissolution.
Most opposition parties find the timing unacceptable, Chaudhary said. It should take place when the country’s health and economic situation is back on track, he said.
It could happen in less than six months, but only if vaccines and medical supplies are secured for Nepal, he predicted.
As cases continue to rise, Chaudhary said calling for an election was ironic and unfortunate.
“While the house is on fire, we are still arguing (over) who is going to sleep in the master bedroom.”