In Gandaki Province, almost all quarantine centres are virtually emptyPeople have been reluctant to stay in the centres, local officials say.
In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, districts in Gandaki Province scrambled to set up quarantine centres, with local governments spending millions in the infrastructure and amenities. But the centres are virtually empty.
In Parbat, the local units spent a combined Rs5.4millions on those centres with capacity to accommodate 360. The local governments have invested an average of Rs 15,000 for each bed, according to Mukti Ram Rijal, chief district officer of Parbat.
But no one is using them.
In Phalewas Municipality, which set up quarantine centres with 212 beds, only seven people have been quarantined so far. Rijal said that the municipality office provided five beds each for 11 wards.
Hari Pangeni, chief administrative officer at Kushma Municipality, said his office has directly invested Rs 200, 000 in quarantine centres while other local units said they are yet to calculate the amount that went into the centres.
Over the period of the lockdown, an estimated 11,000 people have returned to Parbat, but only a small fraction of them were quarantined. Local unit officials said the returnees were reluctant to stay in quarantines.
In Baglung, the local units invested over eight million rupees on those centres. But here, too, the number of people in quarantine is negligible. In Galkot Municipality, only three have been quarantined so far; the number is the same in Bareng Rural Municipality. In Baglung Municipality, which had spent Rs1.5million, many people fled the quarantine centres after two or three nights.
Things are the same in Lamjung and Gorkha, where all centres in 11 local units are currently empty. Ishwar Regmi, chief of the health department in Gorkha Municipality, said no suspects were detected, hence nobody was sheltered in the quarantine centres. The quarantines altogether have housed 73 persons, but only one is being sheltered now.
In East Nawalparasi, a total of 768 centres were set up across eight local units. They have sheltered 32 only so far. “The centres are not necessary now as the rural municipality has strictly adhered to the lockdown and there’s no one coming from outside,” said Shashi Kiran Bastakoti, chair of Bulingtar Rural Municipality.
In Myagdi, the number of quarantined individuals is relatively high, with 353 sheltered so far. But only 23 people remain. The local units say they are yet to calculate the amount invested in setting up the centres.
While in Kaski, most of the quarantine centres were set up in hospitals, so the cost incurred was less, according to Hemanta Sharma, chief of the health department at the Metropolitan office. “We didn’t have to invest much in infrastructure and amenities as the hospitals already had them,” he said.
But in other districts, the cost has been high and local unit officials admit that the centres have been rendered more or less ineffective now. “We spent Rs 500,000 in setting up over a dozen quarantine centres,” Dev Kumar Nepali, mayor of Dhorpatan Municipality in Baglung, said. “Not one person has stayed there so far.”
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.