Most of the people, as per health experts, are dying from the coronavirus due to lack of oxygen cylinders in the hospitals

A record number of 139 people died of the deadly coronavirus in the past 24 hours across the country.

This is the highest number of deaths recorded in a single day since the second wave of the contagion hit the country two months ago, thanks to the massive surge in COVID-19 cases in neighbouring India. The total caseload of the people infected by the coronavirus has crossed 4 lakhs, and the recovery rate has come down to 76 per cent from the previous 98 per cent last September. As per the statistics maintained by the Ministry of Health and Population, out of the 18,411 people who went for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, as many as 9,271 people, or 50.35 per cent, tested positive for the coronavirus. Of them, half were found to be infected with the virus in the Kathmandu Valley alone, followed by Rupandehi.

The latest statistics show that one person is losing his or her life every 10 minutes due to the infection. It means that the mortality rate from the virus stands at 1.2 per cent in Nepal, whereas the mortality rate stands at 1.1 per cent in India. A maximum number of people have died of COVID-19 infection in the last one month.

The way people are dying from the respiratory contagion has raised an alarm bell. Health experts say most of the people, even from the urban areas, reach hospitals after they have breathing difficulty or when their oxygen level goes down. However, the government and private hospitals have not been able to cope with the large number of patients visiting the hospitals, where beds and oxygen cylinders are hardly available.

The problem has aggravated after the COV- ID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) imposed a quota system for all the hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley and nearby Kavre. There are 77 hospitals in the Valley and Kavre, and the CCMC has fixed a certain quantity of oxygen cylinders for each of the hospitals depending upon their bed occupancy and flow of COV- ID-19 patients. Most of the people, as per the health experts, are dying from the coronavirus due to lack of oxygen cylinders in the hospitals.

The government claims there are enough oxygen cylinders across the country. But they have not been distributed proportionately as per the demand of the hospitals where a large number of COVID-19 patients visit for treatment. This has happened because of the mismanagement on the part of the government and related agencies, which are supposed to manage the distribution of the oxygen cylinders.

Around 7,000 to 8,000 oxygen cylinders are filled in the country every day, but the current demand is just double the existing supply. Therefore, the families of the corona patients are forced to go searching for oxygen cylinders using their personal connections.

This is a disturbing scenario the government should immediately address to reduce the death and infection rate. Apart from supplying adequate numbers of oxygen cylinders, the government must use its diplomatic clout and financial resources to procure vaccines so that a large number of people can be inoculated without further delay. It is shocking to see more than 100 people lose their lives in a day in a country of 30 million.

Students' anxiety

The government has rightly postponed the Secondary Education Examinations (SEE), to be held at the end of Grade X, and the Grade XII exams indefinitely due to the upsurge in the number of coronavirus cases across the country. SEE was to begin on May 27 and Grade XII exams on June 9. This is the second consecutive year that the government has had to postpone the exams due to the virus. With virus raging in most of the districts, it is not known when it will finally come under control, putting hundreds of thousands of students in great anxiety.

Last year, the SEE exams were cancelled, and students were evaluated based on their internal examinations, which led to an unprecedented number of students scoring a 4.0 GPA. To prevent such anomalies from repeating, the authorities were hell-bent on conducting the exams in person this time. But, circumstances have forced the government to postpone the exams this year, too. The National Examination Board that conducts the Grade X and XII exams must come up with a modality to conduct the exams so that the evaluation of the students' performance is credible this time. It is a challenging job, given the digital divide and prohibitory orders in 63 districts.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.