Gandaki Province at high Covid-19 risk due to lax border securityThe province is seeing a steady flow of people from outside despite the nationwide lockdown in place.
Though its neighbouring provinces are reporting a rise in Covid-19 cases, Gandaki Province, which has so far reported three cases, is yet to come up with a concrete plan to strengthen border security to prevent the possible transmission of the virus. The province is seeing a steady flow of incoming traffic from outside despite the nationwide lockdown in place.
According to the data available at the provincial Ministry of Internal Affairs and Law, around 4,500 people entered Gandaki Province through various border points in the past three days alone.
With the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the country, the federal Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday decided to scrap all inter-district vehicle passes with effect from Thursday. The Gandaki provincial government, however, is yet to formulate concrete plans to effectively implement the federal government’s decision to beef up security along provincial borders.
“Discussions are being held on that matter. Despite the lockdown, people from outside are using goods carriers to enter the province. We plan to use separate vehicles to bring in goods into the districts, barring entry of vehicles from outside the province,” said Minister for Internal Affairs and Law Hari Bahadur Chuman.
After Covid-19 cases skyrocketed in neighbouring Province 5 and Bagmati Province, Gandaki held a meeting of the Corona Crisis Management Centre in Pokhara on Wednesday to discuss the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus in the province. According to Chuman, security personnel were deployed at all entry points of the province from Wednesday evening.
“We are planning to conduct rapid diagnostic tests on those people entering the province for emergency and essential work,” he said.
According to the Internal Affairs and Law Ministry, as many as 74 trucks carrying food and vegetables, three gas bullets, four tankers of petroleum products, three milk tankers and 42 jeeps used in bringing medicines and other essentials entered the province on Wednesday through various border points.
Authorities have made provisions for incoming vehicles to be sprayed with disinfectant and for testing the body temperature of the vehicles’ crew and passengers, as almost all these vehicles come from Tarai districts that have reported a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases. However, Bindo Bindu Sharma, chief at the Gandaki Provincial Health Directorate, says these measures are not enough to control the possible spread of coronavirus in the province.
“Border security should be strengthened as Covid-19 cases are on the rise in the neighbouring provinces. The authorities should conduct mass testing and keep the hospitals on standby,” said Sharma.
Gandaki has conducted PCR tests on a total of 767 people in the province as of Thursday. Three among them tested positive for the disease while the results of 29 people are yet to come. Two infected persons from Baglung returned home following treatment while the other infected man from Nawalparasi (East) is receiving treatment at a local health facility.
Meanwhile, the district administration in Gorkha has deployed Nepal Army personnel, along with a medical team, in Majhuwa, a major entry point to the district, from Thursday. Superintendent of Police Om Adhikari said all three security agencies—Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force—have been mobilised in all the entry points of the district.
(Deepak Pariyar in Pokhara, Hariram Uprety in Gorkha, Prakash Baral in Baglung and Narayan Sharma in Nawalparasi-East reported the story)