Fear and worries as Province 5 district administrations lack records of people coming from IndiaIn the last week, thousands of people entered Nepal through various border points in Province 5. Nobody knows where they are now.
About a week ago, 17 border points in Province 5 were open, seeing hundreds of people arriving from India, which has so far reported over 500 Covid-19 cases. But there was no restriction of any kind in the border; those who passed the temperature test could move ahead. The authorities didn’t keep a record of where they were coming from and where they were going to either. And nobody was quarantined. At one point, the border point of Sunauli saw a staggering 18,000 people on a single day as the news of coronavirus cases spread fear and chaos among Nepali migrants.
The district administration woke up only when the borders were shut and recorded information about those who entered Nepal after border lockdown. “We can do nothing about those who have already entered the country, but we are trying to quarantine all of those who will enter Nepal from now on,” Mahadev Panth, Rupandehi’s chief district officer, told the Post. “Since the footfall at the border before the lockdown was so high, we couldn’t keep their data.”
In Nawalparasi (West), the district administration has reported about 5,000 people entering Nepal through various border points. Of them, there were 3,000 Nepalis, who were in India for study and employment, and had returned home following the Covid-19 outbreak. In the district, too, they were not tested except for simple thermal screening. Chief District Officer Basudev Dahal said they were let into Nepal after checking their surface temperature. “We didn’t keep records of where they were going because of the crowd,” he said. The local units in the district, however, have designated quarantine facilities for the returnees.
Dang, too, saw about 5,000 returnees from India in the past two weeks, but nobody is currently in quarantine. Even though the district administration has ordered the returnees to stay in self-isolation, there’s no regulation for a lack of records, according to Kul Bahadur KC, Mayor of Ghorahi. District administrations of Rolpa and Pyuthan, too, report the same.
“We have requested everyone who has recently returned from India and other countries to stay in self-isolation,” said Chief District Officer of Pyuthan Lakshman Dhakal. “And almost all the local units have set up quarantine facilities.”
In Palpa, three of the district’s ten local units have set up quarantine facilities, following the directive of the Corona Infection and Treatment task force, while other local units are still scrambling to do the same. “We have asked all the local units to set up at least 50 bed-strong quarantine facilities each,” Chief District Officer of Palpa Yadav Subedi said. “This will give us enough time to prepare for a worst-case scenario.”
In Bardiya, however, 104 people who recently returned from India have been kept at quarantine facilities in various places, while two individuals suspected of COvid-19 have been administered in the district hospital, according to Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajeshnath Bastola. “We have designated seven places across the district as quarantine facilities,” Durgabahadur Tharu, mayor of Barbardiya Municipality, said. “They are equipped with basic facilities.”
An individual in Kapilvastu who travelled on the same plane as the 19-year-old patient who was diagnosed with Covid-19 has been quarantined, according to Deputy Superintendent of Police Sunil Malla of Kapilvastu police. However, the individual hasn’t shown any symptoms yet, Malla said. But the quarantine facility lacks basic amenities except for a rickety bed and mosquito net, according to locals.
In Nepalgunj, officials are scrambling to search for the 500 individuals from various districts who left the rescue facility in Nepalgunj Multiple Campus on Monday. The individuals had entered Nepal from the Nepalgunj border point. Uma Thapa, deputy mayor of Nepalgunj sub-metropolis, said that the administration doesn’t have know-how about where they went. But Chief District Officer of Banke Kumarbahadur Khadka said that his office has corresponded with respective district administrations to quarantine the people who left the facility.(Reporting contributed Manoj Paudel in Kapilvastu, Madhab Aryal in Palpa, Kashiram Dangi in Rolpa, Giru Bhandari in Pyuthan, Durgalal KC in Dang, Rupa Gahatraj in Nepalgunj, Kamal Panthi in Bardiya, and Nabin Paudel in Nawalparasi (west).)
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.