Total tests: 148,657

Confirmed cases: 57,394

Recovered cases: 47,183

Death count: 1355

COVID-19 cases

● Nepal government confirmed the detection of B.1.617.2 variant of coronavirus on 18 May bringing the number of total known variants currently active in Nepal to three. Earlier in January this year, B.1.1.7 variant was detected. The new variant poses an augmented infection risk to people of all age groups.

● Nepal witnesses an acute increase in fatalities due to the shortage of oxygen supply. 15 COVID-19 patients died in Rupandehi and Nepalganj and 18 patients died in Kathmandu as they could not get their oxygen cylinders refilled in time on 12 May. Despite an order (link order) from the Supreme Court to facilitate the supply of oxygen and medicines, the process has been painfully slow.

● According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) situation reports, the highest number of confirmed cases was recorded on 17 May with 9,198 cases and the highest death toll on 19 May with 246 reported deaths.

● This week (15 to 21 May), the total death toll was 1355 compared to 1090 last week (8 to 14 May).

Source: Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) situation reports

Testing

● Within a period of six days, from 15 to 21 May, 148,657 tests have been conducted across the country.

● Out of the total tests done, 144,636 were RT-PCR tests while 4021 were Antigen tests.

● According to the Sudurpaschim Province Police Office, over75,000 Nepali nationals returned from India via four main border points of Sudurpaschim in the last two months. The border points in Darchula, Jhulaghat of Baitadi, Gaddachauki and Gauriphanta of Kanchanpur see over 600 border crossings every day. While the returnees are required to do a mandatory COVID-19 test, the lack of access to the test kits impedes the districts from testing all Nepali nationals, subsequently increasing the risk of infection.

● Similarly, contract tracing efforts in Province 2 are hindered due to lack of medical equipment. Unlike last year local units have not set up quarantine facilities nor initiated mass testing and contract tracing. As a result, the deceased are increasingly testing positive.

Government orders

● The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has issued astatement regarding the second dose of Verocell vaccine through its social media handles. For people outside the valley, provisions are being made to provide a second jab at local health centers. People are requested to register their names at local wards and health centers.

● The Supreme Court has issued an interim order mandating the government to refrain from penalizing people for not wearing masks. The police had been keeping people in holding centers and fining themNPR 100 for flouting mask protocols.

● Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has directed banks and financial institutions to facilitate oxygen supply and medical aid with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) budget in itsthird quarter review of Monetary Policy.

Vaccination Drive

● As coronavirus cases in India skyrocket and vaccines fall short, Serum Institute issued astatement saying it would not be able to export vaccines before the end of the year. Nepal had paid the Serum Institute NPR 30 million to purchase two million doses of Covishield vaccines. The company had delivered one million doses immediately while the second half still remains.

● Nepal government has started to look for alternatives, primarily towards the northern neighbor, after failing to receive one million doses from India on time. However, the deal has not been finalized.

Relief measures

● Himalaya Airlines operated three chartered flights to airlift stranded Indian nationals from Kathmandu to Dammam, Saudi Arabia, on 18 May. The airline boarded passengers up to 85 % of its capacity charging USD 820 one-way fare.

● The Ministry of Finance has allocated NPR 4.31 billion (approximately USD 35.80 million) to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Over NPR 2.95 billion (approximately USD 24.50 million) have been allocated for 26 central hospitals and nine provincial hospitals for managing oxygen plants and ventilators among other necessary medical supplies. Similarly, NPR 1.36 billion (approximately USD 11.30 million) will be provided to 25 hospitals to establish a High Dependency Unit (HDU).

● The Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu has released a press statement regarding extension of grant assistance of up to JPY 996 million (about NPR 1,096 million) to the Government of Nepal to improve medical equipment and services to eight public hospitals in Nepal.

Procurement of Medical Supplies

● According to apress release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are due to arrive from Spain by a chartered flight this week.

● On 17 May, 2500 empty oxygen cylinders were brought to Tatopani customs point from China. As the government has currently scrapped taxation on import for oxygen cylinders, they were eligible to be sent to Kathmandu immediately after physical inspection.

Economic Updates

● Nepal bought Indian currency (IC) equivalent to NPR 404.70 billion by selling US dollars to finance the imports during the first nine months of the current fiscal year; 16% more than the amount during the same period last year.

● Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has ruled out the possibility of achieving 4.01% economic growth in the current fiscal year as projected by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in its third quarterly report of the monetary policy. The second wave of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown and prohibitory orders pose a challenge to achieve estimated growth. CBS had made a preliminary estimate of 4.01% of economic growth on 30 April.

● Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has announced to forbid banks and financial institutions (BFIs) from publishing notices for auctioning collateral or recovering loans during the prohibitory period. This provision is to remain in force until one month after the prohibitory orders are lifted. Similarly, the central bank said that it will also introduce a provision to prohibit BFIs from imposing any penalty or other additional charges in loan repayment from borrowers during the prohibition period.

Other information

● According to the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the amount of waste that it collects from different areas of the city has reduced by around 30% to 50% in the past four days post lockdown. Usually, the city government sends 25 trucks of garbage to the landfill site. However, on Monday, only 13 travelled.

● The Supreme Court registered four writ petitions that demand Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli to be sworn in again as the prime minister on 17 May. Oli had taken the oath of office and secrecy after being re-appointed last week. During the oath, he had skipped a few words telling President Bidya Devi Bhandari, who was administering the oath, that “it’s not necessary”, inviting wide criticism.

● SherBahadurDeuba, the president of Nepali Congress, issued a 15-point memorandum to Prime Minister K.P. Oli, demanding competent and accountable governance to contain the pandemic.

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