33 people on same flight as coronavirus-infected 19-year-old test negativeDistricts in Province 2 start tracing contacts of people who entered Nepal in the past two weeks.
Thirty-three people from Province 2, who were on the same flight as the second person in the country to test positive for Covid-19, have tested negative for the disease, provincial authorities said on Thursday.
A total of 34 people from the province were on Qatar Airways flight QR652, which was also boarded by the infected 19-year-old woman in Doha while returning to Kathmandu from France on March 17.
One individual from Siraha, who was also on the flight, however, has contracted fever. The man is receiving treatment at the Kathmandu-based Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. His test report hasn’t been issued yet, said police.
“Thirty-three people from Province 2 returning from Qatar on the same flight as the Covid-19 patient have tested negative for the virus,” said Deputy Inspector General Pradhumna Karki from the provincial police office, Janakpur. “They are currently in self-quarantine in their own homes.”
The 34 people were tracked by police after authorities intensified search for all passengers onboard QR652. After the passengers were tracked, their throat and nasal swabs were sent to the central laboratory for testing.
“Everyone returning from Qatar to Province 2 is under the surveillance of health officials and security agencies,” said Bijaya Jha, senior health officer at the social development ministry of Province 2.
Meanwhile, authorities are taking a host of initiatives to control the possible spread of coronavirus in the province. According to the provincial police office, 68 people have been kept in quarantine in various districts. Most of them were placed in quarantine after they returned from India and other countries in the past few weeks.
However, as Nepal saw a huge influx of people from India and other countries hours before the nationwide lockdown began on Monday, authorities are facing a hard time tracking all returnees. “A majority of Nepalis working abroad, especially in India, made their way into Nepal in the last two weeks. We are working on identifying them, contacting them and keeping them under surveillance,” said Karki.
In Saptari, authorities have deployed health workers to track people who returned to Nepal from foreign countries in the past 10 days.
With the country confirming three Covid-19 cases—all of them “imported”—health workers in the district are keeping an eye on people who have returned from countries such as Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India in the past 10 days.
District Public Health Office chief Duniya Lal Yadav said the returnees will be kept in quarantine. He said, “The district can accommodate 215 people in 18 locations.” The health office has also urged local units to establish quarantine facilities at the earliest.
According to Yadav, 36 individuals in the district have been quarantined.
Quarantine facilities have also been set up in Bodebarsain Municipality, Saptakoshi Municipality, Chandanrup Municipality, and Agnisaira Krishnasavaran Rural Municipality.
In Dhanusa, Nepal Army has set up a 160-bed quarantine facility at Mithila Aayurveda College, Gaguli.
The Province 2 government has established a relief fund with Rs 250 million seed money to facilitate efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus. The fund will also be used to provide relief to those affected by the pandemic. According to the Minister for Internal Affairs and Law Gyanendra Kumar Yadav, provincial ministers will also contribute a month’s salary to the fund.
The Cabinet meeting also decided to make provisions to allow three laboratories in Janakpur, Birgunj and Rajbiraj to test for Covid-19.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 28, 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 596,349 people with 27,343 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,373, with 11 deaths. While India has reported 667 confirmed cases with 20 deaths. Nepal has so far reported four 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.