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Dr Sher Bahadur Pun: It’s time to reconsider the status of covid

Dr Sher Bahadur Pun: It’s time to reconsider the status of covid

Covid-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and soon spread globally. In January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic, the fifth distinguished pandemic since the 1918 Spanish flu. Now, after almost three years, the threat of Covid-19 has largely subsided. Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talks to virologist Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, who is also the chief of Clinical Research Unit at Kathmandu’s Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, about the Covid-19 status both in Nepal and globally.

Can you explain the present global situation of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Though there are still active covid cases, it has significantly decreased compared to the previous years. Once the pandemic starts, there could be no end of cases, but that doesn’t mean it could hamper the lifestyle for ages. Most of those who have tested positive in recent times were asymptomatic or not seriously ill. 

Is there any possibility of the next deadly wave?

I don’t think so. Even if new waves were to arrive, there are negligible chances of it being deadly like the first and second waves. Not every mutation needs to be deadly. The logic behind this is many people have already tested positive which has created antibodies in their bodies. Besides, a large number of the world population has been vaccinated against covid.

Is there any time limit for a pandemic to end, and do you think it time to downgrade Covid-19 as a communicable disease?

There is no certain duration to ascertain whether a pandemic is over or not. It works on how long it affects humanity. But there is a WHO technical support group that works on the technical aspects of a pandemic. In the case of Covid-19, I personally think that the time has come to reconsider its status as a pandemic. Though few countries are still witnessing a significant amount of covid cases, the infection is not as deadly as it was previously, thanks to the protocols they have adopted against the disease. 

China is still adopting strict measures against Covid-19. What do you think is the reason behind this?

China has introduced a zero-covid policy, which emphasizes zero cases in the country. The policy aims to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. To achieve this goal, China has introduced harsh measures and implemented strict lockdowns and mass testing. I personally am not convinced with this policy. It is difficult to make a country with the world's largest population free of Covid-19 infections. There may be cases as the virus has been detected in the swabs. But the concern should be if the infection has entered the patient’s lungs. As I said before, there are some countries with significant covid cases but they are not deadly. This is because of the covid vaccines. I don’t think we should be comparing the present situation with the previous ones. The scenario has changed with the arrival of vaccines. 

Has Nepal become free of covid threat then?

I guess so because the stats say so. Over 70 percent of Nepalis have received a complete dose of Covid-19 vaccines, which is a very good number. Scientists and health experts have assured that the double dose of covid vaccines work. Many people have also received booster doses, just in case. From our experience, we know that the coronavirus is very tricky, as it changes its form regularly. So, it should be constantly kept under surveillance. But the general public is by and large safe. They should now be free from psychological threats.