Covid-19 threatening to overwhelm Nepal amid claims coronavirus infection rate in some areas at 90%

In the grounds of the Pashupatinath Temple, one of the holiest sites in Nepal, there is a new, distressing daily ritual.

Dozens of bodies are being brought there every day, all Covid victims afforded the dignity of a ceremony on the banks of the Bagmati river, after a desperate death.

The virus spread across the border from India and has rampaged through many towns and villages, including the capital Kathmandu.

In scenes tragically familiar from neighbouring India, there are queues at cremation sites and at hospitals for the oxygen supplies - and help that they are often unable to give.

Dr Rakshya Pandey says her hospital doesn't have the means to cope with the crisis

Doctors in this small and impoverished nation say they don’t have the means to cope and many have blamed the government for failing to plan for this eventuality, and not acting sooner when it was clear having an open border with virus-ravaged India could prove deadly.

The prime minister, who initially claimed to have the situation under control, was later forced to beg the international community for help, even writing a piece for The Guardian newspaper, alerting the world to the desperate situation in Nepal.

China, which also shares a border with Nepal, was the first to respond with planes full of oxygen tanks, ventilators and vaccines.

The numbers in Nepal are not on the scale of India, but for a country with a fraction of its population the figures are still terrifying.

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One doctor we spoke to said some parts of the country have a 90% positive infection rate.

In March, there were around 100 cases a day, yesterday they reported more than 9,000.

Her hospital in the capital is at triple capacity, and they have been forced to turn people away.

Bikash Shrestha says seven people he knows have died in the past seven days

If they don’t get more oxygen soon, she fears there could be a mortality rate to match the rising case numbers.

So desperate is the need for oxygen, climbers on Everest are being asked to donate their unused bottles.

Tourism is so vital to Nepal they couldn’t keep the mountain closed to visitors for a second year, but despite strict checks at base camp, the virus did reach the world’s highest peak and several people were airlifted to hospital.

This variant from India is spreading, indiscriminate of fitness or age.

Several people have told us about the number of younger people being hospitalised, and losing their fight against this far more aggressive, and fatal strain.

A social worker called Bikash told us he has lost seven friends in the past seven days, including a 25-year-old woman who died this morning.

Aid organisations are battling on several fronts to spare Nepal from complete disaster.

As well as coordinating efforts to get oxygen and PPE, they are also attempting to ratchet up the country’s vaccination programme.

Currently less than 1% of the population have received a vaccine.

In Kathmandu the sound of sirens echoes all day long, and the smoke of too many deaths hangs heavy in the air.

And at the Pashupatinath Temple they stoke the fires - preparing for more to come.