“Govt preparing to inoculate COVID-19 booster dose to frontline workers”
“Both the Omicron patients have already recovered and tested negative.”
At the time when the country is bracing for the possible third wave of COVID-19 as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across the globe, Ratopati talked to the Minister for Health and Population, Birodh Khathiwada regarding the preparations being made by the government to combat the situation:
As Nepal has already detected the cases of Omicron Variant of COVID-19 and the variant is spreading rapidly in our neighbouring and other countries, what sort of preparations are being made by the government to combat the possible outbreak?
It is a fact that Nepal is currently in a more comfortable position than previous days regarding the COVID-19 management. The best possible ways to combat the pandemic is maintaining social distance, wearing masks and washing hands time and often.
We have banned air travel to and from nine countries where the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading. Besides, those travelling from these countries via transit are mandatorily being tested for COVID-19 and kept in quarantine facilities for seven days even if they test negative for the virus. We have stopped providing visas on arrivals to foreign nationals for now.
Similarly, health desks are under operation at all 16 transit points of Nepal and India. Of them, quarantine facilities have been set up at eight transit points.
Likewise, six isolation wards (1000-bed capacity) of the Nepal Army are ready to provide services in case of COVID-19 outbreak. The number of COVID-19 Laboratories, ICUs and Hospitals have been expanded all across the country. Besides, compared to earlier days, we increased our ventilators, ICUs and Oxygen capacities by 60 percent.
Also, Both the people testing positive for the Omicron variant have already recovered and tested negative.
Public health experts have claimed that it is inappropriate to begin administering booster doses at a time when Nepal is yet to inoculate COVID-19 vaccine to all the eligible population. What do you say?
I have no idea on what basis those experts made their claim. So far 53.7 percent of the total population of the country have received their first dose while 44.5 percent have been fully vaccinated.
It might take another one year to vaccinate all the eligible population. Providing booster doses doesn’t mean halting or delaying the COVID-19 vaccination drive. Both the vaccine and booster doses will be administered simultaneously.
When will the government begin administering the booster doses?
In our early days of COVID-19 vaccination drive, we had begun by inoculating the vaccine to frontline workers. In this view, the booster will also be administered firstly to the as many as 900,000 frontline workers including health workers, journalists, security personnel and sanitation workers. Afterwards, the booster doses will be administered gradually to the general public.
And, in case of initiation, the government and stakeholders are currently under discussion and a decision will be made soon.
The government has set a target to fully vaccinate the eligible population by mid-April next year. Will the government meet its target on time?
It sure will. The government had earlier set a target to provide COVID-19 vaccine to eligible groups i.e people aged above 18 years and progress is being made accordingly.
When will children aged between 12 to 18 years get their COVID-19 vaccine?
The government will now begin administering COVID-19 vaccine to children aged between 12 to 18 years in their schools. The government has already sent money to buy 10 million doses of vaccine for this group. We are expecting the consignment by late December this year or early January next year. Once the vaccine arrives in Nepal, we will begin inoculating 5 million children.
Similarly, the government will also make arrangements for vaccines for children aged below 12 years soon after the World Health Organization approves the vaccine.
The erstwhile KP Sharma Oli-led government had inaugurated the establishment of 5 to 19-bed hospitals in all the local levels. What are its progress?
The erstwhile government inaugurated the establishment of hospitals in the local level from Baluwatar without allocating budget and making required preparations. We have no map, no DPR and even no lands for the construction.
Even Though, after I assumed the office here, we are gradually making preparations. Firstly, land for construction will have to be acquired, then DPR maps are to be finalized, budget is to be mobilized, and then only tenders for the constructions can be announced.