PM Oli keeps on bragging about Nepalis’ immune system; govt data tells a very different story

June 22, 2020

Ashim Neupane, MyRepublica, June 22, 2020

More than 30 percent of the population is suffering from chronic diseases. Health experts say PM should make statements based on facts 

KATHMANDU: While the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli keeps saying that Nepalis have “strong immune systems” and suggests consuming turmeric to tackle the COVID-19 infection, the government data shows two in three deaths in Nepal are related to chronic diseases.

While several researches have shown that COVID-19 patients with chronic diseases are vulnerable to the infection, health experts have said that PM Oli should make statements based on “facts and research” and not make baseless statements. They also say such remarks make the global pandemic a light issue.

“PM Oli keeps on saying that turmeric water is a cure for COVID-19, but he doesn’t present facts. The statement is not based on research. What if someone dies after drinking turmeric water without visiting a doctor? Who will be responsible?” questioned Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert.

According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a United States public health institute, death rates are 12 times higher in COVID-19 patients with chronic illness. 

In a House session last week, PM Oli said that Nepali have a strong immune system to battle CoOVID-19. “It might be right that Nepalis have better immune systems as a huge chunk of population is under the age of 60. This doesn’t mean the younger population is free from the risk as the number of patients with chronic diseases is significantly high in Nepal,” Dr Dixit, told Republica.

The government data shows that more than 30 percent of the population in Nepal has chronic diseases. “As more than 30 percent of the population have some form of chronic disease, people are certainly at risk. So being in such a responsible position, the PM should deliver speeches based on facts and research.” said Dr Dixit.

The Nepal Health Research Council’s (NHRC) data shows that 12 percent of the population has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 8.5 percent has diabetes, six percent has chronic kidney disease, and three percent has coronary artery disease.

The government doesn’t have proper data about the percent of the population having cancer and blood pressure problems.

According to a doctor at a government hospital, the number of patients having chronic diseases is significantly high in Nepal. “They [chronic patients] are vulnerable to COVID-19. How can the PM say Nepalis have a strong immune system when patients even under 30 years of age have succumbed to CoOVID-19 infection?” questioned the doctor, who is not allowed to talk to the media against the government.

“Every year, more than 10,000 people die of dysentery in Nepal. Almost 20,000 die due to lung-related disease as people consuming tobacco products are significantly high. It is ironic that PM Oli always brags about Nepalis’ immune system when the number of deaths from chronic and other hygiene-related diseases is on a higher side,” said the doctor.

A few days ago, PM Oli also gave a statement that COVID-19 is like a regular flu. “The COVID-19 infection damages lungs, and it is not like a regular flu. Only the symptoms are similar,” the doctor told Republica, adding that the country is lucky to report fewer deaths related to COVID-19.