In Narainapur, the worst appears to be over but fears remainNarainapur, with 118 cases, had emerged as a hotspot for Covid-19 due to poorly managed quarantine facilities but things have improved in recent days.
Lazim Nau of Narainapur Rural Municipality in Banke had gone to a brick kiln looking for work on May 14. He was going to be paid Rs 500 for every thousand bricks he burned. He stayed on the brick kiln premises for a few days, as he didn’t want to walk nine kilometres back home. On the third day, May 17, he was in the midst of burning bricks when a villager arrived with news.
“It was unbelievable. He told me that my eldest son was dead,” 52-year-old Lazim told the Post while standing in the courtyard of his home in Narainapur.
Anish, Lazim’s 25-year-old son, had been in quarantine at the Dipendra Basic School ever since he had returned from Mumbai on May 12. He had come home after the restaurant where he worked closed.
According to officials at the rural municipality, Anish had complained of a headache and had been vomiting since the previous night. Despite his health condition worsening overnight, nobody dared take Anish to the hospital as they suspected he had Covid-19. Anish died at 6:40 am the next morning. When nose and throat swabs taken from Anish tested positive for Covid-19, he became the country’s second fatality from the coronavirus.
Anish’s family believes that he would’ve lived if he had been taken to the hospital on time, as he was young and healthy.
“My brother died because he was not taken to the hospital,” said Farid, Anish’s younger brother. “But whom should we complain to? Who will listen to us?”
Banke, with 255 cases as of Thursday, is among the districts with the highest number of Covid-19 cases. Of these 255 cases, 118 were in the rural municipality of Narainapur alone. And many believe that the poor state of the quarantine facilities has been largely to blame for the explosion of cases.
Krishnachandra Maurya, chair of Ward No 5 in the rural municipality, himself admitted that the number of cases increased in Narainapur as they failed to manage proper quarantine facilities and maintain physical distancing.
On March 18, the local authorities had estimated that around 500 individuals would return to the village from India. The rural municipality accordingly set up four health desks. But over 900 individuals entered Nepal from India in just three days, overwhelming the quarantine facilities.
But ever since the beginning, quarantine facilities have been crowded and mismanaged. There were no health workers and there were problems accommodating newcomers with a shortage of food. There were no health workers deputed to the quarantine facilities, which could’ve helped save Anish’s life.
With cases rising, primarily inside quarantine, on May 10, Narainapur Rural Municipality wrote a letter to the District Administration Office requesting a high-level doctor’s team and more security personnel as the situation was on the verge of spiralling out of control. The rural municipality had also notified the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, the Home Ministry and the Province 5 government of the same risk.
On May 12, the rural municipality started construction of more quarantine facilities. A total of 19 facilities were constructed in various parts of the rural municipality, housing 978 individuals. Among them, 709 have returned to their homes while 153 remain, and new cases continue to be identified, albeit at a much lower rate.
With the number of people living in quarantine decreasing, district officials said that they have decreased the number of quarantine facilities to just three and improved the state of the facilities.
Inspector Man Bahadur GC of the police post in Bhagwanpur, said that the number of newcomers to Narainapur has decreased since May 24.
“Very few individuals are crossing the border from illegal routes too. We estimate that around 1,200 individuals have entered Narainapur from India since the beginning of the lockdown.” said GC.
According to data from the rural municipality, around 300 individuals have yet to arrive in the coming days from India.
The number of new cases might have decreased but locals say they cannot feel safe until testing is done at the community level. The rural municipality has so far focused on keeping newcomers in quarantine and conducting tests.
“Until now, we have only conducted 11 tests of locals in the village,” said Istiyak Ahmed Sah, chair of the rural municipality. “We are mainly focused on testing individuals who returned from India. But we realise it is necessary to conduct testing of locals.”
According to a security official deployed at a quarantine facility, contact tracing of those who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 has not been done effectively.
“But local officials do not seem to accept this fact,” he said on condition of anonymity. “It is not possible to stay safe until testing is expanded at the community level.”
Meanwhile, Roj Ali, Anish’s youngest brother, remains in quarantine since returning from India, and Lazim remains afraid for his youngest son.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
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.