1. Is the country under lockdown?
When the outbreak of COVID-19 second wave started to impact Nepal in April 2021, the country went under second lockdown on 29 April for two weeks. With the cases surging, the lockdown was extended until 3 June which applied to Kathmandu valley and other major cities and towns. Currently the lockdown is extended till June 14 in Kathmandu valley.
2. Nepal’s COVID curve was quite flat. There was a small spike in October, but since April there has been quite a dramatic surge. How did Nepal keep the virus in check and what has caused this recent increase?
No one really knows why both Nepal and India had a relatively gentle pandemic experience in 2020 followed by one of the worst surges in the world in 2021. Nepal was not doing anything substantially different in October 2020 than in April 2021. All over the world, second waves have tended to be more intense than first waves; and a new and more contagious variant of the virus has clearly played a role this time.
3. The rapidity of this surge is very alarming. Did it catch people unaware or was it expected because of what was happening in India?
The new variant of the second wave which was seen in India sadly entered Nepal in late April, but it wasn’t a total surprise. India was devastated and we read horrible news about it every day. When we heard shocking infection and death rates from India during March and April it was predicted that Nepal would soon be affected but people still hoped it would not be this bad and messy.
The government imposed a lockdown in most cities effective 29 April, this seemed to be the immediate and the most efficient way to contain the virus.
4. What is UMN doing to combat this recent surge?
At UMN we are doing our part to respond to the crisis with whatever resources we have. Our clusters team leaders in the districts are working closely with the local govt in the crisis. They are supporting the District Hospitals and Municipalities in every way they can. Procurements of health and safely materials and Oxygen concentrators, re-fills etc.. are under way. The equipment should arrive in a few days’ time. Our cluster offices will hand them over to the hospitals or wherever the need is in local health facilities. The local suppliers are also overwhelmed with the demand, so let’s hope they will be able to arrange it from within or outside the country (China). There is a rising level of fear in communities, as the infection and death rates shoot up every day. UMN is also supporting the local partner in awareness raising programmes through local radio FMs in some field offices.
Every district has a District COVID Crisis Management Committee (DCCMC)and UMN Cluster offices in the districts are working together with this committee.
5. What is the immediate need in the second wave crisis?
The acute need right now is the supply of oxygen. Hospitals are overflowing with patients and oxygen is needed in massive volume. Hospital authorities are admitting the dire situation and almost giving up. We hear stories of patients’ families being asked by the doctors to arrange for oxygen re-fills themselves. More than the first wave, the second wave has hit the country harder. Nepal has surpassed India’s per capita death rate—and mortality rates continue to spike.
6. How is the response being coordinated? There are reports that it is very community-led because of the pressure on the health sector.
Nepal’s local and provincial governments are responsible under Nepal’s federal Constitution for public health and for most hospitals, while the central government is responsible for managing international assistance and mega-disaster response. Because the Constitution is only six years old, the precise division of responsibility is not always clear. UMN and other civil society organisations are working with government at all three levels to coordinate as well as we can.
7. Where is the main concentration of cases and where and how is it spreading?
The capital city, Kathmandu, is still the biggest hot spot in Nepal, given how many people live there and pass through it. Also, India and Nepal have an open border. The long belt of open border and the districts around the open entry points were the highest risk points and the initial hot spots for the infection spread. It is spreading throughout the country now in alarming speed.
8. What are you hearing from people in the community? Are you able to comment on the general mood?
There is fear of contagion. There is frustration seeing how our health systems are sadly not able to cope with the crisis. On the positive side, private sector networks have come together to offer help for ambulance services, or oxygen supplies. Many such notices are shared widely on social media.
With the lockdown, again it is the poorest people who suffer and bear the brunt of it. The daily wage workers are experiencing a sharp decline in their earning and food security. People have criticized the health authorities in failing to prepare well for the second wave of the pandemic.
9. How is Nepal’s health system coping?
Nepal is facing desperate shortages of oxygen, ventilators, ICU beds and other critical services. Hospitals are overflowing and over full in their bed capacity and struggling with adequate oxygen supply. This is the primary need. The Government of Nepal is putting constant effort to control it at the community level.
Nepal has appealed to the Chinese government for vaccines and oxygen. Many INGOs are running campaigns and appeals to address the crisis. The Prime Minister has called for international assistance, and some help has been coming in, but need is massive and the infection rate rising.
10. What do you think will happen over the coming weeks?
The “positivity rate” of COVID tests is still very high right now. We hope we will see it start to come down, and the overall case rate fall, as the effect of lockdowns is felt and this wave runs its course. That would lead to less pressure on the hospitals and more lives being saved. But we will then need to shift all our attention to the national vaccination campaign. Otherwise we will keep seeing more devastating waves like this one every few months.
11. What is the situation of COVID-19 vaccines availability in Nepal?
Nepal launched its vaccination drive on 27 January with AstraZeneca’s Covishield. Under grant assistance, India provided the 1 million doses. Although 438,000 people had received its first dose, only around 370,000 took their booster dose during the second dose vaccination campaign from 20 April to 24 April across the country. After cases started to rise, India put a hold on the export of remaining 1 million doses for which Nepal has already paid.
Nepal granted emergency use approval to Sinopharm’s Vero Cell on 15 February. China had promised 800,000 more doses under grant assistance. The Chinese vaccine arrived in Nepal on 29 March. There has been more awareness regarding the importance of vaccines among the citizens and even during the lockdown, people got their second doses of Verocell. The Health Ministry has also prepared an online vaccine registration form, where the public have to update their details to get registered. The global short supply of shots has however undermined Nepal’s vaccination drive.
12. How has the current lockdown affected the country?
The lockdown impact has already started to surface in number of sectors like tourism, trade and production linkages, supply and health. The aftermath is yet to be experienced with most sectors suffering in numerous ways. The poorest households have been hit the hardest whose earning members are daily wage earners.
13. What kind of immediate support is UMN looking for right now?
Since the new South Asian wave of COVID has hit Nepal with a devastating impact, UMN is appealing to our supporters around the world to help us meet this new surge to respond to the current crisis, both through the mission hospitals in Tansen and Okhaldhunga and in the districts where we do community development work. You can read more about UMN’s appeal at: https://www.umn.org.np/news/954
If you would like to donate to UMN's Second Wave Response, please visit our Donate page at