In late December of 2019, a cluster of cases of pneumonia-like disease, with a previously unidentified agent was reported from Wuhan City in Hubei Province of China. The disease, initially called novel coronavirus disease, was later renamed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) [1, 2]. Due to the rapid spread of the virus across the globe, and subsequently escalating number of confirmed cases and deaths, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 . On a global scale, the mortality and morbidity counts of the disease are rapidly changing; as of April 12, 2020, there were over 1.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 100,000 deaths globally .
Coronavirus—an enveloped RNA-virus broadly distributed among humans, other mammals, and birds—cause respiratory, enteric, hepatic, and neurologic diseases . COVID-19 is spread by human-to-human transmission through the droplet, fecal-oral, and direct contact. Both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals may transmit the virus within 2–14 days after exposure [5, 6]. On one hand, COVID-19 is highly transmissible, while on the other hand, currently, no vaccine or antiviral drugs have been approved for it. In this context, the application of preventive measures such as hygiene practices, social distancing measures, self-quarantines, lockdown, and closure of the non-essential business is the most crucial intervention , which have been applied in many countries to prevent the catastrophic impact of the outbreak.
In Nepal, the first COVID-19 confirmed case was reported on January 13, 2020, in a Nepali student returning home for the holidays from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of COVID-19 . Although COVID-19 cases and mortality soared in many countries, no further cases were reported in Nepal until the second week of March 2020. As of April 12, 2020, 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Nepal (including the case reported in January, which has already recovered) . Of these, 11 cases were travel-related or imported, and only one was community transmitted. Considering the imminent threat of COVID-19 spread in Nepal, the government of Nepal has initiated several preventive measures. These include designation of medical hubs across the country and a “Dedicated Isolation Hospital” in the capital city of Kathmandu to treat the COVID-19 cases. All international flights were suspended, and a health-desk is established at the Tribhuvan International Airport ; checkpoints were established in the border with India. Further, a country-wide lockdown came into effect from March 24, 2020, where people were asked to stay at home except for emergency reasons. Given that the outbreak has been deemed unmanageable even in countries with developed health infrastructures like the US and Italy, global health experts have pointed out that the situation may be dire in less developed economies like Nepal, which already has health resource constrains. Hence controlling the viral spread at the initial stage of the outbreak is paramount in Nepal, and the general public is an important collaborator in this effort.
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides recommendations for the basic protective measures for the public to control COVID-19 . The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) of Nepal has set collective actions to prevent the disease through health promotion, public education, awareness, and involvement. For the public to be a responsible partner in the efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, they should be aware of the outbreak and informed of their role in controlling the spread. Misinformation, misunderstanding, and lack of awareness among people can lead to non-compliance to basic sanitation and disobedience of national guidelines, which may facilitate the rapid transmission of infection in the community. Therefore, for the effective implementation of preventive measures, it is important to examine the level of knowledge and perception of the universal safety precaution among the Nepalese population during this global health crisis. However, to the best of our knowledge, so far, no prior study has assessed the knowledge and perception related to universal safety precautions of COVID-19 among the Nepali population.
This study will provide recommendations on effective strategy for public health significance to policymakers and prospective researchers to prevent and control the COVID-19 disease transmission.