Despite lockdown, people in Gandaki go about their daily livesFarmers are still in the fields preparing for the paddy plantation season.
The government announced a week-long nationwide lockdown from Tuesday in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, which has already infected thousands of people across the world.
However, in rural areas of Gandaki Province, locals are continuing with their daily lives just the way they were doing before the outbreak.
On Wednesday evening in Kushma, Parbat, Laxmi Paudel and her two sisters, Sita and Saru, were on their way to the field carrying compost on their backs. “Coronavirus is for people living in urban areas. In the villages, we can’t afford to stay indoors. We have to work for a living,” said Laxmi. “We have been hearing about the lockdown, but it hasn’t affected our lives here.”
The Paudel sisters, together with their neighbours, work the fields all day, share a meal and head home together at dusk. “Social distancing” is alien to their ears. “We feel fine. We can’t work alone in the fields; there’s too much work. We all have to work together,” said Laxmi.
According to data from various local units in Parbat, more than 150 people have arrived in the district from various Covid-19 infected countries in the last two weeks. Most of them are not on self-quarantine.
Sharada Adhikari, another resident of Kushma, said one of the people who recently arrived in the village from a foreign country is down with fever. “One of our neighbours returned from the Gulf recently. He’s suffering from fever now, but a couple of days ago he was paying calls to his friends and relatives,” she said.
Ramchandra Joshi, mayor of Kushma, said he has informed the respective ward chairman about the matter. But he agrees that villagers are not aware about the disease and precautionary measures needed during an epidemic.
Personnel from the Armed Police Force and Nepal Army have been patrolling Kushma bazaar. But their presence is minimal in the villages. In the last three days, the security personnel have booked three people for defying the lockdown in Parbat.
In Tanahun too, farmers are busy preparing for the paddy season. Hari Bahadur Thapa, a farmer from Myagde, said he’s heard that one has to build up one’s immunity to avoid contracting coronavirus. He said, “I heard it’s important to build immunity and what better way to do that than to work in the fields? Physical work is important to build immunity.”
While Thapa goes to his fields even during the lockdown to “boost” his immunity, Bishnu Bahadur Thapa Magar, from Upper Gunadi, heads to his fields because he has to look out for his family. “We won’t have anything to eat if we don’t plant our crops now. We will go hungry. We will stay at home after we are done with paddy,” said Magar.
In Syangja, people who were living in the cities are returning to the villages, not because of the threat of the pandemic, but because it’s time to prepare their fields for paddy plantation. Devendra Lamsal of Biruwa in Syangja, who runs a business in Pokhara, is currently in his village. “I am working in the fields, preparing for plantation. I come back to my village at this time every year to look after my fields and crops,” said Lamsal. “I know about the virus but I’m not scared of contracting it. I’m more focussed on my work in the fields right now.”
(Samjhana Rasaili in Tanahun and Pratiksha Kafle in Syangja contributed reporting.)
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.