Nepali diaspora hit by Covid surge

Countries with the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases, with ones where total cases rose last week (in red) and fell (in blue). Data: Johns Hopkins University

A second wave of Covid-19 cases in Europe and the explosive spread in the United States has raised the number of deaths from the pandemic in the Nepali diaspora, but experts say the toll may be higher than officially reported.

The Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA) which keeps track of the impact of the pandemic among Nepalis living outside the country says new cases and fatalities have been reported in the past two weeks from United Kingdom, the Untied States, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The estimated total number of Nepalis abroad who tested positive for the virus crossed 46,000 on 14 November, with 293 deaths in countries from where figures were available, NRNA said. Nepalis have tested positive in 44 countries around the world, and fatalities have been reported from 18 of them.

More than 1,000 new cases were confirmed in the past two weeks, and eight more deaths of Nepalis were reported from India alone in the past week in Chennai and Maharastra states. The largest number of new cases has been reported from Romania, where 550 have tested positive in the past two weeks taking the total infected Nepalis to 9,714. Two of them are said to be in a critical state in hospital.

There are no exact figures for the numbers of Nepali migrant workers in Romania, but 4,325 arrived in 2019 alone, and reports say Nepalis form the largest number of people applying for work permits in 2020. Most had jobs in the hotel and restaurant business which have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. One report said all 22 Nepalis working in an auto company in Bucharest had tested positive.

Of the Nepalis abroad who were infected, the Association said more than 41,000 had recovered — possibly indicating that most of them were younger Nepali immigrants in Europe and the Gulf region. However, the death rate is higher in the UK, where there is a large population of elderly Nepali Gurkha pensioners and their families, as well as the United States.

Many Nepalis in countries like the UK, US and Israel are also at the frontlines as caregivers or medical personnel, or work in jobs which require public interaction, and where they are at high risk.

“Nepalis abroad should take care during family gatherings, they should keep a distance and wear masks at all times,” says NRNA’s Health Committee coordinator, Sanjeeb Sapkota. 

Meanwhile in Nepal, the number of infected crossed 200,000 last week, even though the recovery rate is at 82% and 169,000 people are not infected any more. The total fatalities in Nepal increased by 6 on Sunday to reach 1,202.

Of the new infections, 807 were in Kathmandu Valley, and Saturday saw 1,477 testing positive. The numbers are slightly slower than the daily average for the past two weeks because testing clinics were closed for the Tihar holidays over the weekend.

Among those hospitalised with Covid-19 is Govinda KC, the activist surgeon who has for the past four years staged 19 hunger strikes demanding that the government reform medical education and make health care more accessible and affordable. Ironically, KC has been admitted to Teaching Hospital, where he has been treated in ICU in a critical state during his fasts.

The total number of active cases in Kathmandu is now 15,237, Bhaktapur has 1,252 and Lalitpur 2,315. Most are in home isolation, either because they have mild symptoms, because there are not enough beds in hospitals in the Valley, or because they cannot afford being admitted. 

On Sunday, 1,477 new cases were detected out of 6,476 PCR tests carried out, while 2,798 have made recoveries.

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