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Nepal experts warn of covid spread through agitations, election campaigns

Health officials and experts in Nepal fear a further spread of the novel coronavirus as people have taken to the streets to protest against Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's decision to dissolve the lower house of parliament last week.

Capital Kathmandu, which is also the nation's epicentre for the pandemic, has been rocked by protests, leading to worries that large gatherings of people will fuel the epidemic. The number of cases in Nepal had been coming down in recent weeks.

Even as youth organisations and other people agitate against the decision to dissolve the house, experts fear that elections which are likely to be held in April and May will eat into the meagre coronavirus resources. The administrative and electoral arrangements will necessitate considerable resources, which are likely to impact the Covid-19 battle.

Nepal has reported 257,700 coronavirus cases while the death toll stands at 1,819.

Sameer Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson at Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population told Chinese news agency <em>Xinhua</em> that protests and election campaigns could lead to massive spread of coronavirus. "We have been continuously conveying a message against mass gathering. But, political issues are not something that we can control," he said.

"If the elections are held in April and May, the Nepali government needs to spend big for holding the elections which will reduce resources to be spent for controlling the pandemic such as purchasing the Covid-19 vaccines," said Baburam Marasini, former director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Department of Health Services.

The validity of the dissolution move has been challenged as unconstitutional before the Supreme Court. If the court agrees to the dissolution, the Himalayan country, sandwiched between Asian giants India and China, will hold elections in two phases in April and May – something which is leading to worries in the Himalayan country.

(<em>With agency inputs</em>)