Civil society leaders and entrepreneurs in Baglung demand a lockdownThe virus is spreading rapidly in the district but the administration and local residents are not serious about following health protocols, entrepreneurs say.
On April 24, the District Administration Office in Baglung imposed prohibitory orders at Balewa in the district until May 7. The order was enforced after 39 students of Janatadhan Secondary School in Balewa tested positive for the coronavirus on April 20.
However, within a week, Balewa saw dozens of wedding ceremonies, feasts and other gatherings amid the restrictions.
“I have been staying in a rented room instead of going home during the prohibition period. But neither the administration nor the locals in Balewa are being serious to stop the spread of the virus,” said Bishnu Chapagain, a local resident of Baglung Ward No. 12. “The administration has not tightened security in the area. The rate of infection will not go down until the authority imposes stricter security measures.”
Civil society leaders and entrepreneurs in Baglung have been demanding the District Administration Office to impose a lockdown, citing that locals are flouting prohibitory orders in the district.
“At least a week of lockdown is necessary to break the chain of infection. The virus is spreading rapidly in Baglung,” said Yubaraj Raj Bhandari, chairman of Baglung Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to him, on Saturday, an emergency meeting of the Baglung Chamber of Commerce and Industry decided to request the District Administration Office for a lockdown. It has also requested all business entrepreneurs to follow the government’s health standards compulsorily.
“More Covid-19 cases are being reported from the bazaar areas. The risk has increased due to the people’s carelessness. That is why the administration should tighten security across the district,” Bhandari said.
On Saturday, the representatives of the Baglung Chamber of Commerce and Industry met Chief District Officer Shiva Kumar Karki and requested him to enforce a strict lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19. They also demanded expansion of quarantine and isolation facilities, increase in PCR testing and management of vaccines to fight the virus.
In response to the demands of the representatives of the Baglung Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CDO Karki assured them of imposing strict restrictions as per the government’s health standards and directives.
All 10 local units of Baglung have closed their schools since last week. However, people’s movement was not restricted. Until Saturday, long-distance vehicles from Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa were operating in the district.
“Returnees from India are being sent directly to their villages without undergoing any tests. This has increased the risk of infection,” said Ganeshraj Lamsal, a local businessman in Baglung.
Meanwhile, Dhaulagiri Hospital in Baglung bazaar, the district headquarters of Baglung, finally started PCR testing from Friday, a year after the machine was brought to the hospital. Dr Shailendra Pokharel, medical superintendent of the hospital, said, “We started PCR testing from Friday after the National Laboratory in Teku permitted us to operate the machine. In the initial testing, 66 percent of individuals tested positive for Covid-19.”
According to him, out of 30 swab samples tested on Friday, 20 samples tested positive for the virus.
Although there are three ICU beds in the hospital, the Intensive Care Unit has not come into operation due to a lack of medical equipment and skilled human resources. The ICU beds were installed at the hospital last year to treat Covid-19 patients.
“We cannot provide treatment to critical Covid-19 patients in the hospital,” said Pokharel. “I have requested the federal and provincial governments for necessary medical equipment and skilled human resources to run the ICU.”
Currently, there are 25 isolation beds at the hospital.
“We are going to add 25 more beds and set up a 50-bed isolation facility. But there's a shortage of skilled health workers at the hospital,” said KB Ranamagar, chairman of the Hospital Management Committee.
According to Pokharel, the hospital needs at least three skilled health workers to operate the ICU. “The hospital has also been preparing to operate a trauma section, which requires more health workers,” said Pokharel. “But we have only three medical officers working at the hospital at present. We need at least 16 medical officers and eight more nurses.”
Meanwhile, Shalikram Sharma, a member of the Hospital Management Committee, said that the federal and provincial governments have not paid heed to their problems.
“We have requested the Ministry of Health and Population to address our demands for health staff. But the concerned authority has not paid any heed. This is why the hospital is facing difficulties to operate its ICU, isolation ward, OPD and other departments,” Sharma said.