Police begin cracking down on people defying lockdownWednesday saw police enforcing the restriction more seriously than on Tuesday, with arrests and vehicle confiscations.
Social media videos have continued to emerge throughout the day of the police enforcing the lockdown, sometimes in creative, other times in cruel ways.
In one video that has gone viral on social media, two police personnel are seen thrashing a man riding a bicycle on the streets of Nepalgunj. The police interrogate him and then begin to strike him with their sticks while asking him to go back home. Ironically, there are a number of men sitting just behind the policemen.
In another video from the Capital, two youths are made to get down on all fours while being struck on the behinds by a stick.
The videos, which do show the unwarranted use of force by the police, are being seen as emblematic of the seriousness with which the police are treating the lockdown. On the first day, police were generally more lenient, asking people to go home, but on the second day, reports and images came in from across the country of security personnel cracking down.
Deputy Inspector General Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, spokesperson for the Nepal Police, said that the police do not condone misbehaviour and that police personnel need to treat the public with respect.
“We are aware of the videos circulating of police misbehaving with the public and we are investigating them,” said Kshetri. “Internal action will be taken against those officers by their departments.”
The country is currently in the midst of a week-long nationwide lockdown put in place by the government on Monday to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the country. Nepal has so far reported three cases of Covid-19.
On Wednesday, the second day of the lockdown, over 2,000 vehicles were seized from across the country for operating on the roads without a medical reason or prior permission. Over 800, mostly two-wheelers, were confiscated in the Kathmandu Valley, according to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division.
A Monday meeting of the high-level coordination committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19 had decided to prohibit all public movement outside the home, except to seek medical attention or purchase essential foodstuff. All public and private vehicles, except for those with prior permission, those belonging to security forces and those for health workers, were forbidden from the streets.
“However, many vehicles were found defying the prohibition. Even on Tuesday, we had confiscated some vehicles but they were released soon,” said Superintendent Jeevan Kumar Shrestha, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division. “Vehicles were confiscated after asking the drivers why they were on the streets.”
Although no one in the valley has been arrested so far by the Nepal Police for violating the lockdown, on Tuesday, the first day of lockdown, around 68 persons were arrested from different parts of the country for defying the order, even after repeated warnings, according to data provided by the Nepal Police headquarters. Wednesday too saw a number of arrests but figures have yet to arrive at police headquarters from across the country, said officials.
“The arrests were made after people were found not abiding by the lockdown,” said spokesperson Kshetri. “Many of the arrestees were later released to their families.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.