Health workers in protective suits spray disinfectant on children on a deserted street in Kathmandu on May 3, 2020 as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown.

Prakash Mathema | AFP | Getty Images

Nepal has underestimated its second wave of Covid-19 infections and needs to step up its efforts to deal with the crisis, Nepalese billionaire Binod Chaudhary said last week. Nor should the country hold its elections until the situation stabilizes, he said.

“I have to admit, we as a nation have probably underestimated the intensity of the second wave,” he told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Friday.

The South Asian country’s Covid cases increased in April and continued to hit new record highs in May.

As of May 30, Nepal has reported 557,124 coronavirus infections and 7,272 deaths, according to local health authorities.

The situation is similar to neighboring India, which has the second highest number of cases in the world.

Chaudhary, chairman of Nepal-based CG Corp Global, said the first wave was bad enough and the country had been “crippled” for about three months despite recovering.

“It’s worse this time,” he said.

Health system

Nepal’s medical system is under immense pressure, with a lack of oxygen, ventilators and intensive care beds, he said.

World Bank data shows that Nepal had only 0.749 doctors per 1,000 people in 2018. That’s less than 0.857 in India and 2.812 in the UK in the same year.

Vaccination in Nepal has been hampered by the supply and, according to Our World in Data, only around 2.25% of the country’s 29 million people are fully vaccinated.

“We were counting on India,” said Chaudhary.

India is a vaccine manufacturing center and has donated shots to neighboring countries. Nepal also bought cans, but India stopped exports in February to give domestic demand priority.

“We’re looking for other sources of supply,” he said. “We must all increase our efforts quickly.”

This land needs to be safe and secure.

Binod Chaudhary

CG Corp Global

He added that CG Corp Global has mobilized its network to help bring oxygen and ventilators to Nepal. The company’s nonprofit donated approximately $ 1 million to help address the health emergency.

Chaudhary urged the world to “pay special attention to countries like Nepal” when it comes to vaccines.

“This country needs to be safe and protected,” he said. Bordering India and China, Nepal is “strategically convenient yet small,” he said, predicting the problem could be resolved “fairly quickly”.

Various nations have sent aid in the form of medical supplies and personal protective equipment. China has reportedly donated 800,000 doses of its Sinopharm-developed vaccine to Nepal.

General elections in November

Chaudhary, an opposition MP, said he would like all parties to bring the Covid-related challenges to the fore and try to get Nepal to safety.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” he said. The Nepalese parliament was dissolved in December, but the move was reversed after the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional.

On May 22nd, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved parliament and called for an election in November. Reuters reported that the Nepalese Congress Party announced to the opposition that it would launch a political and legal battle against the dissolution.

Most opposition parties find the timing unacceptable, Chaudhary said. It should take place when the country’s health and economic situation is back on track, he said.

That could happen in less than six months, but only with vaccines and medical equipment secured for Nepal, he predicted.

As cases continue to grow, Chaudhary said the call for an election was ironic and unfortunate.

“While the house is on fire, we are still fighting over who will sleep in the master bedroom.”