Nepal says COVID-19 cases may double as daily infections hit record level

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KATHMANDU, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Nepal recorded 10,258 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, government data showed, the highest number reported in a single day as the government projected the tally could double by the end of the month.

Total infections topped 972,198 and COVID-19-related deaths stood at 11,624. The previous daily record was 9,483 cases in May last year.

Authorities extended an earlier ban on large public gatherings in the hill-ringed Kathmandu valley, home to more than four million people, until Feb. 12 from Jan. 29 to try to control the spread of the virus.

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Nepal’s daily number of infections is likely to double by the end of January and hospitalisation cases could increase greatly to put further strain on the country's poor health infrastructure, officials said.

"This is just a projection for us to prepare," Krishna Prasad Poudel, head of the epidemiology and disease control division, told Reuters.

"Actual numbers could be higher or lower than the likely 20,000 daily cases before they begin to fall."

Hospitals ran short of beds and many patients died due to lack of oxygen when the outbreak of the Delta variant peaked in May last year.

"The government has made adequate arrangements to ensure that there is no shortage of oxygen this time," Poudel said.

Nepal, which has double vaccinated 40.6% of its 30 million people since last year, began giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to frontline workers on Monday.

Neighbouring Bhutan reported a daily tally of 141 cases on Monday, also the highest number since the pandemic began.

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Reporting by Gopal Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond

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