How the charts tell us about COVID situation in Nepal: A brief data analysis from WHO Nepal’s weekly report

Featured | JUNE 21 2021

Lives are being disrupted almost everywhere on this planet by the COVID, and we are witnessing it everyday –  since 2020. As of June 20, 2021, nearly four million have died of Coronavirus and 170 million others have been infected worldwide.

Nepal, the world’s poorest nation with a population of nearly 30 million saw its first COVID case in January 2020. This number now is more than half a million and counting. So far the confirmed COVID-related deaths have reached 8,726 (June 20, 2021). However, the death rate is way more high compared to last year.

Here is the reason: the circulation of three variants, discovered later, are thought to be highly contagious and deadliest. The second COVID wave in Nepal began with a rise in positive cases in April 2021. Nepal only took a step at the end of April to slow down the spread of the virus by imposing prohibitory orders and restrictions – first in Kathmandu valley than in various hotspots across the country bordering India.

Being a densely populated region, it is clear and obvious, COVID hit the Bagmati province hard where 5.5 million people reside. Hospitals in the capital Kathmandu were overwhelmed with COVID patients more than any other parts in Nepal – with an extreme shortage of oxygen cylinders and ventilators. Those times were hard to forget.

Let’s have a look at Province 5. This region ranks second to be highly affected by the virus. Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj lie here that have always been major trade routes with India. Due to the open border with India and poor screening of people’s mobility, individuals who came from India are thought to be the super-spreaders of the virus in this region.

In India, while political mass gatherings were fueling the rise of  COVID cases, Kumbh Mela on the other hand doubled this down. Tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered to celebrate this event, among them were many Nepalis. The returnees from Kumbh Mela were not properly checked or screened at the border – another reason for the rapid spread of the virus in Nepal. Kumbha was marked from mid-January to the fourth week of April this year.

Nepal’s former royals, Gyanendra Shah and Komal Rajya Laxmi who attended the mela also contracted the COVID. On April 11, they interacted with a large number of sadhus and pilgrims without wearing masks.

The chart below shows a sharp spike of cases in May, after the end of Kumbh Mela.

As the virus of the “double mutant” variant spread across the country, the second chart clearly shows a huge difference in the confirmed COVID cases during the second wave compared to the last year. The highest daily average was reported on May 12, 2021.

In the same manner, the third chart shows the higher deaths this year than the last year where males have mostly died with COVID.

If we look at this chart, we can figure out many deaths occurred just in March and May this year (2021) whereas only 1,733 had died with COVID in a period of eight months starting May 2020.

The rate of COVID related death has exponentially spiked in March 2021 which from this standpoint shows how the virus is so deadly. Last year the average weekly death rate was 6.91, which has increased to 14.30 this year.

 

About the Article and Data

This article reflects the author’s viewpoints which are based on the analysis of datasets for a specific timeframe. So, this piece may not reflect the entire picture and multiple facets of Nepal’s COVID situation in the past and now. 

This piece is edited and moderated by Nikesh Balami (CEO) and Binita Gyawali (Data Science Intern) of Open Knowledge Nepal (OKN) with additional mentoring by Arun Karki, Center for Data Journalism Nepal. Data scraping is done by Biva Joshi, Data Wrangler Intern of OKN.

OKN spent two weeks in scraping, cleaning and analysing PDF data from the WHO weekly report on COVID situation update. Please refer to our Log document to find the gaps and lapses in the data, which were identified during the time of data scraping and cleaning. We prepared this article just by working on the COVID data from May 2020 to May 2021.

Original data source: WHO Nepal Situation Updates on COVID-19, also please access the scraped data from the OKN GitHub repo here. Contact us at [data@oknp.org] in case you have additional queries regarding data and interpretation of visualization.